The Law – things every employer should know

Whether you’re hiring staff for the first time, or have been an employer for a while, it’s important that you understand what the law requires you to do. This section provides the resources to help you understand your rights and responsibilities.

Give all new employees a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement

You must must give all new employees a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement, which provides basic information on matters that will affect their employment.

The Fair Work Information Statement provides information to employees on:

the National Employment Standards

how a transfer of business affects entitlements

modern awards

agreements under the Fair Work Act 2009

individual flexibility arrangements

freedom of association

termination of employment

right of entry (including privacy laws to protect personal information)

the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Australia.

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Ensure employees have access to the National Employment Standards 

The NES are a safety net of 10 minimum conditions, set out by law, for all full- and part-time employees These are:

A maximum standard working work of 38 hours for full-time employees, plus ‘reasonable’ additional hours.

A right to request flexible working arrangements – certain employees can ask to change their working arrangement.

Parental and adoption leave of 12 months (unpaid), with a right to request an additional 12 months.

Four weeks paid annual leave each year.

TTen days paid personal/carer’s leave each year, two days paid compassionate leave for each permissible occasion; and two days unpaid carer’s leave (once the ten paid days are used up) for each permissible occasion; and five days unpaid domestic violence leave (in a 12 month period).

Community service leave for jury service or activities dealing with emergencies or natural disasters. This leave is unpaid except for jury service.

Long service leave.

Public holidays and the entitlement to be paid for ordinary hours on those days.

Notice of termination and redundancy pay.

The right for new employees to receive the Fair Work Information Statement.


Some of these conditions also apply to casual employees.

You must make copies of The National Employment Standards (also known as the NES) and the Pastoral Award 2010 available to all employees. You can pin a copy to a conveniently located noticeboard, or use electronic means, whichever makes them more accessible.
Ensure employees have access to the Pastoral Award 2010

By law, you must make a copy of the Pastoral Award 2010 available to all employees. As with the NES, you can pin the Award to a noticeboard or distribute electronically, whichever gives employees the best access. As of 1 January 2010 the federal Pastoral Award 2010 covers all employees in the dairy industry, except some managers (and some employees in WA).

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Ensure that you’re giving your employees all their entitlements, such as minimum wages

To make sure you’re giving your employees all of their entitlements, you need to read the Pastoral Award 2010. The Pastoral Award sets minimum employment wages and conditions for dairy industry employees which apply on top of the National Employment Standards.

Clause 28 of the Pastoral Award deals with minimum wages, which is the lowest amount which can legally be paid to an employee. These minimum wage rates are reviewed each year by the Fair Work Commission. This is called the ‘annual wage review’. Any changes to minimum wages start to apply from 1 July.

Your employee’s minimum wages depend on a number of things, including:

  • your State or Territory
  • their age (if they’re under 20)
  • their job duties, responsible and any qualifications they’re required to have.

Other commonly overlooked entitlements are:

  • loading for casual workers
  • minimum three-hour shift length for casual or part-time staff
  • 17.5% loading for annual leave.

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Things to avoid

You should make sure you, your managers and staff understand the laws that apply on your farm. These are a few key things that aren’t okay in the workplace:

  • Unpaid work trials. You can’t ask people to work for free.
  • Cash in hand payments. It’s against the law to pay an employee without taking out tax. This is called paying someone ‘cash in hand.’ You can pay an employee in cash as long as you deduct tax from their earnings and send it to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). For information on tax law, contact the ATO.
  • Not giving employees a pay slip within 1 day of being paid. You need to give them a pay slip that has certain information on it – see Payroll Section of the Eski module for details and a template.
  • Not paying employees in money – giving them goods (including food) or services instead of pay is against the law.
  • Making unlawful deductions from employees’ pay. Payroll deductions can only be made in very limited circumstances – refer to Payroll Section.
  • Not giving employees the meal breaks or rest breaks set out in the award or agreement.
  • Unreasonably refusing employee requests to take their leave entitlements.
  • Sham contracting. Independent contracting is where one business does work for another business. Independent contractors usually use their own equipment, choose what hours they work, decide how they do the work, pay their own tax and have an ABN. Some employers try to avoid paying minimum rates, tax and entitlements by claiming that someone is an independent contractor or share farmer when really they’re an employee. This is called ‘sham contracting’, and it is illegal – refer to FAQ – Contractor or employee? and FAQ – Share farmer or employee?

Is your employee entitled to work in Australia?

It is a criminal offence to knowingly allow someone to work in breach of their visa conditions. To avoid penalties, ensure your employee has a valid visa to work in Australia before you employ them.  Read more>> 
Fair Work audits do happen!

In February 2013, Fair Work Inspectors conducted face-to-face visits to about 70 randomly selected employers in Cobram, Corowa, Echuca, Moama, Mulwala, Rutherglen, Tocumwal and Yarrawonga. Inspectors checked that employers were complying with record-keeping and pay slip obligations, including giving employees sufficiently detailed pay slips within one working day of pay day and keeping correct time-and-wages records.

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Resources, support material and updates

The ESKi is designed to get you started, and is integrated with the resources on this website. The People in Dairy website is still the ‘top copy’ for managing people issues on your farm.

You can use the information and templates on this website to develop processes and/or documents that will help make your farm safer.

The documents and links below will help you with this topic.

People issues are constantly changing. If you would like us to keep you up to date with a regular, short bulletin subscribe here (you can unsubscribe at any time).

The Law checklist
  • Have all employees been given a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement?
  • Is the Pastoral Award 2010 available to all employees covered by the award?
  • Are the National Employment Standards available to all employees covered by the award?
  • Are all casual and part time employees engaged for a minimum of 3 hours?
  • Do you pay 17.5% leave loading on holiday pay?
  • Does your employee have a valid Australian work visa?
  • Do you know the difference between a contractor and an employee?

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