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Managing Employment Law in Victoria (Australia)


Whether you are an employer or an employee, navigating your way through the constant changes of Industrial Relations law, the Victorian Workplace Relations Act and the system of Awards is difficult and confusing. In Victoria, your place of employment or business may come under an Australian Workplace Agreement, a Certified Agreement, a Federal Award, an Industry Sector Award, or a Victorian Common Rule Award.

Do you know which law applies to your employment or business? To determine which category may apply, one must ascertain whether the place of employment or business falls within certain criteria.  


This is an agreement between a single employee and the employer. The parties lodge the agreement with the Office of the Employment Advocate, which must meet the ‘No Disadvantage’ test before it becomes operable. Both the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and the Office of the Employment Advocate conduct this test to ensure that the federal agreement does not reduce an employee’s overall employment conditions when compared with an applicable award or legislation.  


This is an agreement made between single businesses, and some or all of its employees. The parties must formally register and obtain approval by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and for federal coverage; the agreement must name the specific employer.  


These awards apply to a number of businesses, often related by industry or product and if an Australian Workplace Agreement or Certified Agreement does not apply, and the work falls under the following industry sectors. To determine if an award is relevant, an award must name the employer or business (under either the current or previous name), or the employer or business is a member of a named employer association.  


If the preceding agreements do not apply, then the business or place of employment is an industry sector falling under the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Industry Sectors provide minimum wage rates and employment conditions.

The primary business activity of the employer determines the Industry sectors, which include:

  • Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants
  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Communication Services
  • Construction
  • Cultural and Recreational Services
  • Education
  • Electricity, Gas and Water Supply
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Government Administration and Defence
  • Health and Community Services
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Personal and Other Services
  • Police Services
  • Property and Business Services
  • Retail Trade
  • Transport and Storage
  • Wholesale Trade


The first Victorian Common Rule Awards took effect from 1 January 2005 and apply to all employers and employees in a particular industry or occupation not already covered by a federal award or agreement.

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has declared over 160 federal awards to operate as common rule in Victoria in a range of industries, including:

  • Clerical and Administrative
  • Clothing trades
  • Transport
  • Poultry
  • Storage Services
  • Horticultural
  • Pastoral
  • Security
  • Catering
  • Building services
  • Hospitality
  • Licensed clubs
  • Furniture manufacturing
  • Rubber, plastic and cable making
  • Vehicle repairs, service and retail
  • Metal, engineering and associated industries

The Victorian Common Rule Award does not affect employers and their employees currently covered by a Federal Award, Certified Agreement, or Australian Workplace Agreement.

The Victorian Common Rule Award provides access to all Victorian employees to the award safety net of fair and enforceable minimum wages and conditions of employment.


Enterprise Bargaining Agreement clauses in certain Victorian Common Rule Awards allow more flexibility in tailoring the award to suit the business or employment.

These agreements allow the employer and employee, or the employee’s union, to negotiate certain terms and conditions of employment, which become part of the enforceable agreement. For example, in someEnterprise Bargaining Agreements, the parties may change the hours of work to suit retail patterns or shift workers.

Employers must take great care when drafting these agreements to ensure that they include all mandatory award conditions, and are fair and equitable. Employee must carefully read the agreement to ensure that their interests have full protection.

This is a complex area of the law, which one must navigate with care, to ensure that:


The employment contracts meet legal requirements and minimum conditions, reflecting the practical realities of the business, which are fair, just, and do not expose the employer to liabilities.

Employers should realise the potential advantages of Enterprise Bargaining Agreements to the business, and take advantage of their flexibility by incorporating them into workplace agreements.


Realising and understanding the employee has bargaining rights, and terms and conditions of one’s employment, including pay entitlements and minimum conditions.  


Behan Legal raises the level of awareness and knowledge of legal rights to create a strong position for those wishing to assert those rights, especially in a negotiation. Behan Legal will provide advice an every aspect of employment, from pre-contractual stage, through to negotiation and the terms of employment.

Behan Legal tailors advice towards maximising the party’s position by ensuring that all employment contracts protect respective interests, and the agreement covers all mandatory award conditions, and conditions that can allow for enterprise bargaining.

Employers and employees should consider the other related areas that affect the employment relationship; which Behan Legal can advise and assist, including:

a)    Employment Contracts

b)    Policies and Procedures Manuals

c)    Enterprise Bargaining Agreements

d)    Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination Law

e)    Mediating Disputes  


Behan Legal can provide ongoing consulting advice and updates about changes in employment law for business or an employee. Behan Legal will collaborate with employers to implement ongoing advisory and consultancy services that deal with changes, action, and implementation at an agreed fee. It is your decision.

Employers can keep abreast of all new developments in this area of law.


Behan Legal advises and assists on these important issues, however, given the complexity will meet with you personally to evaluate your position. For an appointment, call 03 9646 0344 .

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