What are my employment obligations under the NES?

The National Employment Standards are a critical component of the employment safety net for Australian workers. Here we explain the 10 standards.

What are the National Employment Standards?

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) prescribes the National Employment Standards, commonly referred to as the NES.

The NES are the minimum standards of employment that apply to all Australian workers employed by a national system employer (including real estate businesses). They apply irrespective of income level, occupation and the industry in which the work is performed.

The NES provide minimum conditions of employment for the following 10 matters.

  1. Maximum weekly hours of work

An employee can’t be requested or required to work more than 38 hours per week (for full-time employees), unless the additional hours are reasonable.

  1. Requests for flexible working arrangements

Parents or carers of a child of school age or younger, or of a child under 18 with a disability, are allowed to request a change in working arrangements to assist with the child’s care.

  1. Parental leave and related entitlements

An employee with at least 12 months’ continuous service can access an entitlement to take up to 12 months’ unpaid leave if the leave is associated with the birth of a child of the employee or the employee’s spouse (or placement of the child with the employee for adoption).

There’s also a right for the employee to request an additional 12 months unpaid leave, though the employer can refuse this request on reasonable business grounds.

Parental leave also extends to casual employees if they meet certain requirements.

  1. Annual leave

An employee (other than a casual employee) accrues four weeks’ paid annual leave per year, plus an additional week for certain shift workers.

  1. Personal/carer’s leave and compassionate leave

An employee (other than a casual employee) accrues 10 days’ paid personal/carer’s leave each year. This leave can be taken in circumstances where the employee is unfit for work because of a personal illness or injury or, alternatively, to provide care or support to a member of the employee’s immediate family because of a personal injury or illness affecting that member.

Employees are also provided two days’ paid compassionate leave for each occasion that a member of the employee’s immediate family or household, contracts or develops a personal injury or illness that poses a serious threat to life or, alternatively, dies.

In the case of casual employees, compassionate leave is unpaid.

  1. Community service leave

Employees have access to leave to enable them to undertake an eligible community service activity. This includes jury service and performing a voluntary emergency management activity; for example, fighting bush fires as a member of a rural fire fighting service.

Except in relation to jury service, community service leave is unpaid. There are specific entitlements relating to jury service.

  1. Long service leave

This provision only concerns a transitional entitlement for employees who had certain long service leave entitlements under an award before 1 January 2010. It’s unlikely to affect employees in the real estate industry.

Until a uniform national long service leave standard is established by the government, long service leave entitlements are determined by the laws in the respective states and territories.

  1. Public holidays

This provision prescribes particular days or dates as being public holidays and the right for an employee to be absent from work on these days.

An employee (other than a casual employee) absent from work on a public holiday, is entitled to be paid their base rate of pay for that day.

  1. Notice of termination and redundancy pay

This provision prescribes the minimum notice that an employer must give an employee when terminating their employment. It also sets the rules concerning redundancy entitlements in the event the employer makes the decision to no longer require the job performed by an employee to be done by anyone.

  1. Provision of a Fair Work Information Statement

Employers must provide a Fair Work Information Statement to all new employees. It contains information about the NES, modern awards, agreement making, the right to freedom of association, termination of employment, individual flexibility arrangements, right of entry, transfer of business, and the roles of the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Find out more

Have you seen our series of REEF TV videos explaining the National Employment Standards? Go to the ‘REEF TV’ item in the ‘Resources’ menu to view them.