Preparing to engage workers – National Employment Standards

In Australia when we want to employ staff we are guided by Fair Work Australia and the Fair Work Act 2009 as well as ATO and Tax Laws.  One of the main parts of the Fair Work Act is the National Employment standards, these standards consist of 10 minimum employment entitlements that must be provided to all employees.

The 10 minimum entitlements of the National Employment Standards are:

  • Maximum weekly hours
  • Request for flexible working arrangements
  • Parental leave and related entitlements
  • Annual leave
  • Personal carers leave and compassionate leave
  • Community service leave
  • Long service leave
  • Public holidays
  • Notice of termination and redundancy pay
  • Fair Work Information Statement

In this blog we are looking at these 10 standards in more detail and also providing links where you can get even further information from.

Maximum Weekly Hours

The Maximum Weekly Hours are ordinary hours that your staff work, excluding overtime.  The National Employment Standards set that an employee can work a maximum of 38 ordinary hours in a week.

Your Award or Agreement will set out the maximum ordinary hours in a day, week, fortnight or month; the minimum ordinary hours in a day; and the times of the day ordinary hours can be worked (eg. 7am – 7pm).

Request for flexible working arrangements

Flexible working arrangements can be request by certain staff members.  You have the right to refuse the request, but only on reasonable business grounds.

Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to:

  • Hours of work (start time or finish time)
  • Patterns of work (split shifts or job sharing)
  • Locations of work (working from home etc.)

To find out who can request the flexible working arrangements and the business grounds you are able to refuse the request on go to –

Parental Leave and related entitlements

Your staff can get parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Parental leave entitlements include:

  • Maternity leave
  • Paternity and partner leave
  • Adoption leave
  • Special maternity leave
  • A safe job and no safe job leave
  • A right to return to old job

Your staff are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave.  They can also request an additional 12 months of leave.

To find out more on Parental Leave, you can go to the Fair Work website –

Annual Leave

Annual leave (holiday pay) allows an employee to be paid while having time off from work.  The entitlement to annual leave is set in the National Employment Standards.

All employees (except casual employees) are entitled to paid annual leave.  The entitlement is 4 weeks annual leave based on their ordinary hours.  This means that if their ordinary hours per week are 20 hours, they are entitled to 4 weeks of 20 hours pay.

Awards and Agreements can not offer less than the 4 weeks, but can give more weeks.  Shiftworkers may get up to 5 weeks per year depending on their award.

Annual leave is accumulated from the first day of employment, regardless of probationary periods.  The leave accumulates gradually over the year and any unused leave will roll over from year to year.

Annual leave accumulates even when the employee is on paid leave, either annual or personal leave, but it does not accumulate when on unpaid leave, either annual, personal or paternal.

Personal/Carers Leave

 Previously this was known as sick leave, but with the introduction of the Fair Work Act, it is now called Personal/Carers leave and includes compassionate leave.  This allows your staff to take time off for personal illness/injury, caring responsibilities or family emergencies.

The National Employment Standards includes both paid and unpaid entitlements.

The definition of family members or household members includes:

  • Spouse
  • Defacto partner
  • Child
  • Parent
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Sibling
  • Child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the employee’s spouse or defacto partner
  • A household member is any person who lives with the employee

Compassionate leave

All staff (including casual staff) are entitled to compassionate leave.  Compassionate leave can be taken when a member of an employee’s immediate or household (see list above), dies or suffers a life-threatening illness or injury.  Staff can take compassionate leave for other relatives (eg cousins, aunts and uncles) if they are a member of their household or you, the business owner agrees.

Compassionate leave can be taken as paid leave (full-time or part time staff) or unpaid leave (casual staff).  All staff are entitled to 2 days compassionate leave, either continuous or separate days, each time an immediate family or household member dies or suffers a life threatening illness or injury.

Compassionate leave can not be cashed out.

A staff member taking compassionate leave must give their employer notice as soon as they can (this may be after it has started).  The Employer is entitled to request evidence about the reason for compassionate leave, the request for evidence has to be reasonable.

Community Service Leave

Staff, including casual staff, can take Community Service Leave for Jury Duty and voluntary emergency management activities.  With exception of Jury Duty, Community Service Leave is unpaid.

The staff member is entitled to take Community Service leave while they are engaged in the activity and for reasonable travel and rest time.  There is no limit to the amount of Community Service Leave your staff can take.

Staff who take Community Service Leave must give their employer, notice of absence as soon as possible (this may be after the leave starts) and the period or expected period they will be away.

You are entitled to request evidence that they are entitled to Community Service Leave.

To find out more about Community Service Leave you can go to –

Long Service Leave

If your staff member has been with you for a long period of time they will be entitled to Long Service Leave.  The laws around Long Service Leave entitlements are set out in each State or Territory, so for you to know how long a staff member has to be with your for and how much long service leave they get you will need to go to your State or Territories Long Service Leave website:

Public Holidays

Under the National Employment Standards employees are entitled to Public Holidays.  Public Holidays can be different depending on the State or Territory you have your business, so make sure you check when your staff will be entitled to Public Holidays.

If you request that your staff work on a Public Holiday then you will need to check out your Award or Agreement to establish the entitlements your staff get, including extra pay (public holiday rates), an extra day off or extra annual leave, minimum shift lengths, substituting a public holiday for another day.  To find out more on this go to

Staff (except casual staff) who normally work on the day a public holiday falls will be paid their bas pay rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked on that day.  To find out more about paying your staff for public holidays when they don’t work it you can go to

Notice of termination and redundancy pay

The National Employment Standards sets out the rules around notice periods and redundancy pays.  They also tell you:

  • How to give notice
  • Paying out notice
  • Notice during probation periods
  • Serious Misconduct

For you to learn more about employment termination go to

The Fair Work website can also assist you with understanding about redundancy, like when it happens and what is genuine redundancy.

To learn more about Redundancy you can go to

Fair Work Information Statement

For each staff member you employ, you must give them a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement either before they start work or as soon as possible after starting.  A copy that you can download is HERE.

The statement gives new staff members information about their conditions of employment including:

  • The National Employment Standards
  • The right to request flexible working arrangements
  • Modern awards
  • Making agreements un the Fair Work Act
  • Individual flexibility arrangements
  • Freedom of association and workplace rights
  • Termination of employment
  • Right of entry
  • The role of the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission

I would highly suggest that you give the statement to your new staff member in the Staff Employment Pack (which you will learn about in coming weeks), but it can also be given to them, in person, via mail, by email, by emailing a link to Fair Works website or by fax.

So far in our series on HR/Payroll, you have learnt about the different types of employment, how the Fair Work Act affects you employing staff and now a more detailed view on the National Employment Standards.  If you have any questions around either of these please feel free to email me or contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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