Cultural Artefact: Workplace Relations Act 1996 (1996 - 2009)

25 November 1996
30 June 2009
Industrial relations and Law


An Act relating to workplace relations, and for other purposes.

Administered by federal departments:
Attorney General's; Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Superseded by the Fair Work Act 2009.


The principal object of the Act was to provide a framework for cooperative workplace relations which promoted the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia by:
(a) encouraging the pursuit of high employment, improved living standards, low inflation and international competitiveness through higher productivity and a flexible and fair labour market;
(b) establishing and maintaining a simplified national system of workplace relations;
(c) providing an economically sustainable safety net of minimum wages and conditions for those whose employment is regulated by this Act;
(d) ensuring that, as far as possible, the primary responsibility for determining matters affecting the employment relationship rests with the employer and employees at the workplace or enterprise level;
(e) enabling employers and employees to choose the most appropriate form of agreement for their particular circumstances;
(f) ensuring compliance with minimum standards, industrial instruments and bargaining processes by providing effective means for the investigation and enforcement of:
(i) employee entitlements; and
(ii) the rights and obligations of employers and employees, and their organisations;
(g) ensuring that awards provide minimum safety net entitlements for award-reliant employees which are consistent with Australian Fair Pay Commission decisions and which avoid creating disincentives to bargain at the workplace level;
(h) supporting harmonious and productive workplace relations by providing flexible mechanisms for the voluntary settlement of disputes;
(i) balancing the right to take industrial action for the purposes of collective bargaining at the workplace level with the need to protect the public interest and appropriately deal with illegitimate and unprotected industrial action;
(j) ensuring freedom of association, including the rights of employees and employers to join an organisation or association of their choice, or not to join an organisation or association;
(k) protecting the competitive position of young people in the labour market, promoting youth employment, youth skills and community standards and assisting in reducing youth unemployment;
(l) assisting employees to balance their work and family responsibilities effectively through the development of mutually beneficial work practices with employers;
(m) respecting and valuing the diversity of the work force by helping to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin; and
(n) assisting in giving effect to Australia's international obligations in relation to labour standards.

Related entries


 1988 - 1996 Industrial Relations Act 1988
       1996 - 2009 Workplace Relations Act 1996
             2009 - Fair Work Act 2009