Employment LawEmployment Contracts & Australia’s New Workplace Laws

April 15, 2024

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Australia’s workplace laws have been subject to substantial changes in recent times, and businesses with staff need to ensure the employment contracts are bulletproof.

The second set of ‘Closing Loopholes’ changes have now received Royal Assent after passing the Parliament in February, and follow the Australian Government’s ‘Closing Loopholes’ changes which passed the Parliament in December.

The changes in the second Closing Loopholes laws take effect at various dates across this year and into next year, with many changes already in effect.  See the timeline. Download the timeline.

These shifting workplace laws have, understandably, created a significant level of confusion for many business owners and managers, making seeking expert advice crucial.

For employers dealing with these employment law changes, the first step in avoiding potentially costly disputes or legal action begins with reviewing existing employment contracts and how entitlements are being met. This review process highlights areas that need updating to remain legally compliant.


Employment contracts explained

When a business offers someone a job, the two parties are entering into an employment contract and a legal relationship.

Written employment contracts that set out the terms and conditions of employment are essential to safeguarding companies when workers are involved in disputes. Whether or not a contract is signed, all employees are covered by National Employment Standards that must be adhered to.

Employment contracts must comply with all Australian workplace laws. While groups like Fair Work Australia can support businesses in relation to advice regarding the legal minimums required in an employment contract, employment lawyers are vital for advice on other terms and conditions.

Employment contracts normally cover things such as:

  • Pay (incl. overtime arrangements & penalty rates)
  • Hours & conditions
  • Leave entitlements
  • Role expectations
  • Confidentiality terms
  • Intellectual property terms, etc

It’s important to note that an employment contract must not provide wages and entitlements that are lower than an award or the national employment standards. This also applies to minimum leave entitlements.

What are the key recent Australian workplace law changes?

When it comes to the law, compliance is not optional and ignorance is not a legal defence.

Some of the most recent workplace law changes impacting Australian businesses include:

Changes to the definition of casual employment and employment

  • Commencing on 26 August, definition changes mean an employee is a casual only when:
  • there isn’t a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work, factoring in the real substance, practical reality and true nature of the employment relationship; and
  • the employee is entitled to be paid a casual loading or a specific pay rate for casuals.

A new pathway will also replace the existing rules for eligible casual employees to change to permanent employment if they want to.

From no later than 26 August, there will be new definitions of employee and employer under the Fair Work Act. In determining whether an employment relationship exists, the totality of the relationship must be considered, including the real substance, practical reality and true nature of the working relationship.

  • Right to disconnect laws are new and stop employers from contacting employees outside of designated work hours. These changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 also state that workers are not required to monitor, read or respond to work communications outside of these hours. The new law passed parliament in February 2024 and will commence six months after royal assent.
  • Federal law changes also make it easier for employees to challenge employers who deny their requests for flexible working arrangements. Employers are now expected to genuinely try to accommodate flexible work requests. This also applies to requests linked to domestic or family violence.


Employment contract review legal support

Businesses need to move quickly to review existing employment contracts, HR policies and procedures for any outdated information. They also need to ensure future employment contracts are compliant with the recent raft of workplace law changes.

At Quest Legal, our experienced employment lawyers can help your business stay legally compliant. We possess a depth of knowledge about workplace law and the recent workplace law amendments and are aware of what is currently known about workplace law changes that are forthcoming for Australian companies.

Consulting with a legal expert provides important legal protection for your business, so get in touch with our leading employment law team today.

Employment Contracts & workplace Laws FAQs

Q: When do the new workplace laws in Australia come into effect?
A: There are a number of new workplace laws in Australia that can impact employment contracts. Some are already in effect. Others will come into effect later in 2024 and beyond.

Q: How do employment lawyers help businesses comply with workplace laws?
A: Employment lawyers are experts in workplace law, and the changes that are affecting Australian businesses have many knock-on effects for managers and owners.

Quest Legal’s team can help ensure your employment contracts are watertight, protecting you from unnecessary, costly legal action.

Ensuring your HR Policies are in line with the new workplace Laws

Every business should review its HR policies to be compliant with the new legislation. These policies should include as a minimum the following:

  • Anti-bullying and Harassment Policy
  • WHS Policy
  • Code of Conduct
  • Drugs and Alcohol Policy
  • Leave Policy
  • Grievance Policy
  • Acceptable Use of IT Policy (includes internet, email, social media and cyber security)
  • Working from Home Policy (now to include After-hours Contact Policy)

Quest Legal is helping many businesses update their policies to ensure they are legally compliant with the new workplace laws and are looking after their employees. If you need help, please fill out the form below, and one of our lawyers will contact you shortly.

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Click here to download the workplace law’s Timeline of changes to ensure your business is compliant in time.

Contact one of our lawyers today to help ensure your employment contracts and policies are compliant.

Download workplace law timeline of changes


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