Employment Law · Additional Resources

The Queensland Industrial Relations Act 1999 amended the existing laws and sets out the minimum standards or obligations of employment. The Act was updated by further amendments in 2001. Different industries or different businesses within those Industries may have their own Industrial Award or Contract of Employment or Certified or Workplace Agreement, but they usually cannot offer less than the minimum provision set out in the Industrial Relations Act. Further details about contracts or agreements are set out in separate articles provided by this firm.

The principal object of the Act is set out at Section 3 which provides the framework for industrial relations that supports economic prosperity and social justice.

Some of the key provisions are as follows:-

General Employment Conditions

These are contained in chapter 2 of the Industrial Relations Act.

It sets out firstly the working time, which must not exceed six days in any seven consecutive days or forty hours in any six consecutive days or eight hours in any day. It requires an employee to be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of the standard hours and requires a rest pause of at least ten minutes in each four hours of working time, however these provisions do not apply if there is not an industrial instrument or award that is applicable or if that industrial instrument provides otherwise.

There are then some standard provisions which applies to most employees although not employees that are casual or pieceworkers. These provisions however do apply whether or not such employees are covered by industrial instruments or awards or agreements. Employees are entitled to eight days sick leave on full pay for each completed year of employment. Employees are entitled to at least four weeks annual leave or if the employee is a shift worker at least five weeks annual leave, exclusive of public holidays. An employee who would ordinarily be required to work on a public holiday is entitled to full pay for that day. Previously these provisions did not apply unless specifically stated in an instrument or industrial agreement.

The provisions applying to parental leave, again do not apply to casual employees, seasonal employees or pieceworkers. However it does apply to casual employees who are engaged on a regular and systematic basis for a period of at least two years. A pregnant employee is entitled to an unbroken period of up to fifty-two weeks unpaid maternity leave for a child’s birth and to be the child’s primary care-giver. The pregnant employee’s spouse is entitled to leave on the basis of an unbroken period of up to one week’s unpaid short parental leave and a further unbroken period of up to fifty-one weeks unpaid parental leave as long as that parental leave is not taken at the same time as the pregnant employee. Similar provisions apply for adoption of a child. There is however provisions placing responsibility on employee to give the employer at least ten weeks written notice of intention to take leave and at least four weeks written notice of the dates they are required to start and end the leave.

In respect of carer’s leave an employee may use up to five days of sick leave on full pay in each year to care and support members of the employee’s immediate family when they are ill or members of the employee’s household when they are ill. Closely aligned to that leave is bereavement leave, although this does not apply to casual employees or pieceworkers. An employee is entitled to at least two days bereavement leave on full pay on the death of a member of a person’s immediate family or household.

The provisions with respect to long service leave have changed slightly, although the general provisions will remain the same and that is that an employee is entitled to long service leave on full pay of thirteen weeks for the first fifteen years continuous service and if the employee has completed at least a further five years continuous service another period of one-third of thirteen weeks for each additional five years. If an employee does not complete fifteen years continuous service but completes at least seven, then the employee is entitled to a proportionate payment for long service leave. There are alternative provisions for casual employees.

There are now provisions which specifically spell out that there is to be equal remuneration for male and female employees of equal or comparable value.

There are now also provisions which allow for protection of employee’s rights and entitlements on the transfer of ownership of any business to ensure that there is no break in the employee’s continuity of service.

Unfair Dismissals

The law with respect to unfair dismissals is dealt with in chapter 3 of the new Act and largely reflects the provisions that previously existed and this is set out in a separate article provided by this firm.

Freedom of association

Some important provisions contained in the Industrial Relations Act at chapter 4 are those which protects a person’s right to choose to join or not to join an industrial association such as a union or an association of employers or employees or independent contractors and protecting that person from discrimination.


Chapter 5 of the Industrial Relations Act sets out the Commission’s powers for making, amending or repealing awards to ensure that fair and just employment conditions are imposed. Particularly the Act will require the Commission ensure that the awards do not contain discriminatory provisions and that a dispute resolution procedure is contained in each award. It specifically states in that chapter to the extent there is any inconsistency an award prevails over a contract of service.


Chapter 6 contains the provisions dealing with Certified agreements and Queensland Workplace Agreements, which are set out in a separate article provided by this firm.


Some businesses or industries of course have employers who operate in more than one State or Territory. For this reason, there is a Commonwealth Act called the Workplace Relations Act 1996, which sets out the minimum standard of employment in Federal Businesses. The Queensland Industrial Relations Act has been substantially based on the Commonwealth Act.