Confused By The Fair Work Act? Don’t Listen To The Experts

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IR Simplified: Confused By Fair Work Act
Photo Credit: Daquella manera via Compfight cc

If you read enough articles about the Fair Work Act, written by so-called experts, you start to see a common thread.

That the Fair Work Act is complex and too hard for the average person to understand.

Thankfully this isn’t the case, and most of the time they are pushing their own agenda.

What this means is that it is the experts that are making the Fair Work Act hard to understand.

Dramatisation Sells

Truth and understanding don’t sell papers or get clicks.

Take for example this article that appeared in on by ‘expert’ David Bates.

Mr Bates wrote a nice story about Steve who has opened a cafe/library/online hub.

Like all good propaganda pieces, Mr Bates makes the simplest of tasks appear complex and long winded.

Fortunately for us, his piece has that many holes in it, that you couldn’t use it to sift flour.

Taking Away The Exaggerations

Using Mr Bates’ example of Steve, and his business, let’s look at things from a positive position.

With Steve being on the cutting edge person that he is, he heads on over to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.

Steve chooses this option over calling as he can do it on his time, rather than during business hours.

There Steve finds the pay and conditions calculator where he looks for the right Modern Award.

Having done his due diligence before setting up the business, Steve knows the following.

  • The tasks that his employees will spend a majority of their time doing. In this case, it is cafe work (barista).
  • There may be over 120 awards now, though before 2009 there were many more. Both at the State and Federal level.

Steve is able to find out that the Restaurant Industry Award 2010, is the relevant one for his business.

Being tech savvy, Steve is able to do this without repeated phone calls or frustration.

Filling Vacancies

Now we come to the interesting part of the scenario. Hiring staff.

If Steve wants to hire a junior staff member, he is able to do that, without being sued.

The position description would be for a junior, and it would be unlawful for him to hire an ‘adult’ to fill it.

This means there would be no lawsuit, and no $5,000 payout and lawyer’s fees.

What does it matter if she goes home on the second day, and is continually absent?

Steve isn’t paying her. Once she has been gone for the three months quoted, her employment can be terminated.

Yes. Anyone can lodge an application for an unfair dismissal remedy.
Yes. Conciliation is part of the process.


There is no legal need for either party to take part in the conciliation call.

Mr Bates also made an erroneous claim about what the conciliator would say.

I doubt that the conciliator would pressure Steve into ‘settling’ the matter.

Tim’s application would have no chance of success, and the conciliator would know that.

How he came about the $5,000.00 figure is anyone’s guess.

FWO Inspectors Aren’t Evil

Not being from the FWO I can’t say what they will do in every situation. One thing I can say is that in the dealings I have had with them, their focus is on education.

Not enforcement or penalties.

Three $540 fines, highly unlikely.

Back-pay for wrong award. Yes, though as he has only had employees work for 2 days, the amount wouldn’t be that much.

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from this?

Like other areas of business, employees pay and conditions isn’t something to guess.

Steve would have sought help to set up his business structure.

He would have got shop fitters in to build his cafe/library/hub.

He would have got someone else to set up the computer and internet for the hub.

Not getting someone to help with the wages and conditions side of thing is Steve’s fault.

Not the Fair Work Act.

If you are confused about your obligations under the Fair Work Act, look for someone who can help you.

Subscribing to this site is a good option.

You can do that by following this link, or adding your details below.

There there is the facebook group Simplify Industrial Relations.

Or, head on over to LinkedIn, and join the group Australian Industrial Relations to name a few.

In this day and age, there is no reason for anyone to be confused by the Fair Work Act.

If you are, the only thing I ask you not to do is listen to the word of experts.


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