Key obligations as an employer

If you're an employer, it's very important to understand employment legislation and your legal responsibilities to your employees.

Meeting your obligations not only ensures that your business operates within the law. It also:

  • helps to keep employee morale high
  • reduces staff turnover
  • can improve the overall image of your business.

The following information outlines your key responsibilities as an employer.

On this page

Discrimination

It is unlawful for an employer to take adverse (harmful) action against an employee, former employee, or prospective employee because of the person's:

  • race
  • gender identity
  • sex
  • sexuality
  • lawful sexual activity
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • relationship status
  • family or carer responsibilities
  • pregnancy, breastfeeding or parental status
  • religious belief or activity
  • political belief or activity
  • trade union activity
  • association with, or relation to, a person identified on the basis of any of these attributes.

Read more about anti-discrimination and equal opportunity.

Consider professional HR advice

It's very important to meet your responsibilities as an employer, but it can be complicated. If you're unsure, consider contacting an HR professional.

Find HR support and advice by:

  • doing an online search for HR professionals, support or consultants (read reviews if available)
  • ask your business network for recommendations.

Most HR professionals will be members of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) and have a relevant qualification (e.g. a degree in business management, human resources, finance or industrial relations).

Employment contracts

An employment contract is an agreement between you and your employee. Written employment contracts (also known as employment agreements) set out:

You don't have to provide your employees with a written agreement, but keep in mind that:

  • you must give every new employee a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement
  • the employee will still be covered by NES, any relevant award and employment legislation
  • an employment contract will help if you there are issues or disputes.

An employment contract cannot provide less entitlements for the employee than the legal minimum set out in NES, relevant awards, or legislation.

Knowing what to include in a contract and what type of contract you need for each employee can be confusing. For help with employment contracts, you can contact a human resource professional or an employment lawyer.

You can also read more abour employment contracts.

Employee entitlements and awards

Learn more about your employee entitlements and awards including:

  • National Employment Standards (NES)
  • pay rates
  • awards and agreements
  • ending employment
  • fair work institutions
  • record keeping.

Pay

It's very important to have a good understanding of employee wages and to pay employee wages correctly.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has:

Most employees work under an award or registered agreement and are covered by the minimum pay rates outlined in that award or agreement. Employees who are not covered by an award or registered agreement are entitled to the national minimum wage.

Learn more about the national minimum wage.

Each financial year, the Fair Work Commission conducts a national minimum wage review. Changes made to the minimum wage come into effect on the first full pay period on or after 1 July each year.

Pay slips must be issued to each employee within 1 working day of pay day, even if an employee is on leave.

Pay slips must include the following:

  • the employer's name
  • the employer's Australian Business Number (ABN), if any
  • the employee's name
  • the date of payment
  • the pay period beginning and end dates
  • the gross and net amount of payment
  • details of the payments, deductions, and superannuation contributions for the pay period
  • any loadings, monetary allowances, bonuses, incentive-based payments, penalty rates, or other separately identifiable entitlement paid.

Pay slips can be issued either electronically or on paper. Electronic pay slips must:

  • be provided to each employee by email or into a personal electronic account
  • list the same information as paper pay slips
  • be in a format that makes it easy to print or view in private.

Find out more about your payslip obligations or talk to your accountant or bookkeeper.

Superannuation is a retirement savings program that helps provide an income for retirees. Throughout an employee's working life, contributions are made to their superannuation accounts and this money is invested.

As an employer, you must make superannuation contributions for each of your eligible employees.

Eligible employers can pay super for their employees through the Australian Taxation Office's Small Business Superannuation Clearing House.

Learn more about employer superannuation responsibilities or talk to your accountant or bookkeeper.

Tax

The 2 main taxes employers need to be aware of are:

  1. pay as you go (PAYG) withholding
  2. payroll tax.

PAYG withholding is the Australian system for withholding tax from payments to employees.

If you have employees, or pay employees of another business, you must withhold an amount from payments to cover:

  • their income tax
  • any Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) repayments
  • Medicare levy.

Under the PAYG withholding system, you must report and send all amounts withheld to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

As an employer, you must:

  • register for PAYG withholding
  • work out the status of your workers (if applicable)
  • work out the amount to withhold
  • report and pay withheld amounts to the ATO
  • provide payment summaries to employees and lodge an annual report with the ATO after the end of each income year.

Learn more about PAYG and the withholding system or talk to your accountant or bookkeeper.

Payroll tax is imposed by each of the states and territories. If you are an employer, or part of a group of employers, who pay Australian taxable wages that are above the threshold, you need to register for payroll tax.

Find out if you meet the threshold and need to register for payroll tax.

Learn more about payroll tax and your obligations as an employer, or talk to your accountant or bookkeeper.

Industrial relations

Learn more about managing employer and employee work-related obligations and entitlements including:

  • the Fair Work Commission
  • the Fair Work Ombudsman
  • Queensland Industrial Relations Commission
  • where to go for advice and support.

Leave

There are many reasons why an employee may want or need to take time off from work. Minimum leave entitlements for employees are set out in the National Employment Standards (NES).

The following outlines your leave responsibilities to your employees.

Employers must be aware of when public holidays will take place as employee entitlements can be different on public holidays (e.g. penalty rates). Public holidays can differ in each state and territory.

Learn more about public holidays.

All employees (except casual employees) are entitled to paid annual leave based on their ordinary hours of work.

An employee is entitled to:

  • 4 weeks annual leave for each 12 months of service

or

  • 5 weeks annual leave for some shift workers for each 12 months of service.

You must:

  • pay annual leave at the employee's base rate of pay for their ordinary hours during the period of leave
  • not unreasonably refuse a request to take annual leave.

There's no minimum or maximum amount of accrued annual leave to be taken at a time.

Learn more about annual leave and an employer's obligations.

Employee entitlements are as follows:

  • Full-time employees are entitled to 10 days paid personal leave year.
  • Part-time employees are entitled to the equivalent pro-rata (proportionate) leave. This means, for example, that a part-time worker working half the hours of a full-time employee, will be entitled to half the amount of personal leave.
  • All employees, including casual employees are entitled to 2 days unpaid carer's leave per year.

Paid personal leave accumulates from year to year.

Learn more about:

All employees, including casuals, are entitled to compassionate leave (also known as bereavement leave). Employees are entitled to 2 days compassionate leave each time they meet the criteria.

Compassionate leave criteria includes:

  • death or life-threatening illness for an immediate family or household member
  • the employee or employees' partner has a miscarriage
  • a baby in their immediate family or household is stillborn.

Full-time and part-time employees are entitled to paid compassionate leave. Casual employees are entitled to unpaid leave.

Learn more about compassionate and bereavement leave.

All employees in Australia are entitled to parental leave when a child is born or adopted.

The Australian Government's Paid Parental Leave Scheme provides financial support for new parents while they're off work caring for a newborn or recently adopted child.

As an employer you may be required to provide government-funded parental leave pay to an employee. Find out more about what the Paid Parental Leave Scheme means for you.

Learn more about paid maternity and parental leave.

All employees—full-time, part-time and casual—are entitled to 5 days unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year. The full 5 days are available to employees from the day they start work. Family and domestic violence leave is not accumulative.

Find out more about family and domestic violence leave.

Long service leave is a period of paid leave available to employees after a long period of service with an employer. Long service leave entitlements for most employees are set out in the laws of each state or territory.

Learn more about long service leave entitlements in Queensland.

All employees are entitled to access community service leave for voluntary emergency-management activities or jury duty. They can use the leave while engaged in the activity and for reasonable travel and rest time.

There is no time limit on community service leave. Employees can access the leave as required.

Find out more about community service leave.

Record keeping

Employee records must:

  • be in a form that is readily accessible to a Fair Work inspector
  • be in a legible form and in English (preferably in plain, simple English)
  • be kept for 7 years (for time and wages)
  • not be altered, unless for the purpose of correcting an error
  • not be false or misleading to the employer's knowledge.

Employee records that an employer has to keep, include:

  • general employment details—name, start date and employment status
  • pay—rates, gross and net pay, deductions, bonuses
  • hours of work—penalty rates and loadings, hours worked (casual and part-time) and copy of any agreements relating to the employee's work hours
  • leave—balances, leave taken, agreements related to cash out or leave in advance
  • superannuation contributions—amount paid, pay periods, name of fund, form showing employee's choice of superannuation
  • individual flexibility agreements—copy of the agreement
  • ending employment—how employment was terminated, notice provided, who terminated employment.

Employee records are private and confidential. Generally, no-one can access them other than:

  • the employee
  • their employer
  • payroll staff.

Employers must provide copies of an employee's records at the request of the employee or former employee.

Learn more about record keeping for business.

Union membership

All employees have the right to join or not to join a union. Employees must not be pressured by the union, their employer or any other person to make a decision about joining, not joining, or leaving a union.

Workplace health and safety

Managing health and safety risks in your workplace is a legal responsibility as a business owner. It's your duty as an employer to provide your employees with a safe and healthy work environment.

Learn more about your work health and safety obligations as a business operating in Queensland.

Workers' compensation

As an employer, you must have workers' compensation insurance. Workers' compensation premiums cover you and your employees' medical costs and lost wages if they have a work-related injury or illness. Most employers insure with WorkCover Queensland.

Learn more about your workers compensation requirements as a small business owner.

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