Fair work: Overview

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What is Fair Work?

The Fair Work system is Australia’s national workplace relations system. It started on 1 July 2009 and was created by the Fair Work Act 2009.

It covers the majority of workplaces in Australia. Employers and employees in the national system all have the same workplace rights and obligations, regardless of which state or territory they work in. You can find out more about the Fair Work system and who it covers on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) has jurisdiction (along with the Federal Court of Australia) to hear claims under:

The Court also has jurisdiction over any civil matter arising under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The Court is not the only court that deals with matters covered by the Fair Work Act. Depending on the type of issue, it may not be the most appropriate court to commence a proceeding. Section 539 of the Fair Work Act (contravention of civil remedy) is an example of a provision which identifies the courts in which proceedings may be commenced.

TIP: The Fair Work jurisdiction is also referred to as workplace law, industrial law, employment law and/or industrial relations law.

How can I resolve my Fair Work dispute?

Depending on the type of issue/s, there are a number of ways to attempt to resolve your dispute before coming to court. In some cases, you need to obtain a certificate from the Fair Work Commission before you can file an application in the Court. For more information see Avoiding court.

If you can’t resolve your dispute, the Court has a small claims process which is more informal than most court proceedings and is usually conducted without lawyers. The process aims to settle disputes quickly and fairly, with minimum expense to the parties. Matters are usually resolved with only one hearing. See Small claims.