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Working Conditions in Australia


Australia offers excellent working conditions ensuring that workers are treated fairly and not discriminated against. Employers in Australia are strictly regulated through the Workplace Relations Act (1996) which legislates working conditions and there are severe penalties for breaches of this act.

More occupation-specific aspects of work including work hours, rates of pay, allowances, overtime, holiday/sick leave and so forth, are covered by a range of other more detailed legislative documents. These include federal or state awards, or collective agreements between an employer and a group of employees or individual workplace agreements. The strict, numerous and detailed legislative documents guarantee that workers’ rights are protected, and provide for good working conditions.

Work Hours
Business hours in Australia are usually 9am to 5pm, although there are some variations depending on industry and individual employers. A full working day is generally considered to be 8 hours.

Employers are required to pay overtime rates and usually to provide meal allowances if employees work over 8 hours per day. When employees work on weekends or nightshifts, the employer is obligated to pay an increased hourly rate. The rates vary depending on industry, but generally employers need to pay at least 1 and a ˝ times the usual rate for hours outside the normal working day and 2 times the normal rate on Sundays and for night work. Australian employers also tend to be quite flexible with part-time and casual work a popular option. The Australian Government reports that around 80% of employers offer the option of casual and part-time work. A lot of Australian employers also offer flexible working hours to full-time employees.

Leave Entitlements
There are some variations in leave entitlements as these are laid out in industry-specific agreements that can also vary from state to state or be employer-specific. In general however, employers are required to provide around 2 weeks of sick leave per year and around 4 weeks of recreational leave for full-time employees. Australian employees also have entitlements to other kinds of leave including maternity leave, these entitlements also vary between industry and sometimes between employers. Further information can be found at http://www.workplace.gov.au.

Unions
Under Australian law, employees are guaranteed the right of freedom of association and therefore are free to join a relevant union or any other organisation. The Union movement is strong in Australia and further helps to guard workers rights as the Unions are collective groups that act as representative bodies to protect workers’ rights. Unions represent and support workers as well as enforce workers rights. They play an important role in dispute resolution, with many industries having their own tribunals to settle disputes between unions (which represent the workers), the workers themselves and employers. There are also further avenues if this fails to resolve the issue, and worker can seek settlement within the court system. The union movement and the legal avenues available to workers whose rights have been breached, provide a further guarantee of good working conditions.

Wages
Almost all industries in Australia have relevant Federal or State awards which dictate wages. Minimum wage levels are laid out in these industry-specific Award Agreements, or they can be set out in agreements between employers and workers. These agreements can be collective Enterprise Agreements between an employer and a group of employees or they can be Individual Workplace Agreements.

Various agreements cover all aspects relevant to rates of pay and determine the minimum wages for the relevant industry.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the average Australian Wage in Feb 2004 was A$ 39,1120. This is a healthy increase of around 5% from the previous year.

The minimum wages vary, as they are industry specific. Further information on industry-specific Australian wages can be found at http://www.wagenet.gov.au.







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