Employment and the law

Meeting your employer obligations towards your employees requires an understanding of several legal issues. The courts have placed the employer-employee relationship within the framework of contract law. Contract law assumes the parties to a contract are free and equal partners in bargaining - that is, in working out the terms of the contract.

Minimum standards

The average employee has little choice about who to work for compared with the employer's ability to engage the employee or to hire someone else who is prepared to work for less pay under less attractive conditions. To help correct this imbalance, certain minimum standards have been set that must be met by employers in any employment relationship.

An employer and employee can still agree to any terms and conditions they might want to have in the contract of employment but if any fall below the minimum standards the law takes over and the situation is automatically corrected.

A full outline of the employer-employee relationship can be found in the Law Handbook.

Workplace agreements and awards

Most workers are also covered by a workplace agreement or an award. Workplace agreements and awards set the terms and conditions to be observed in a workplace, occupation or industry.

Agreements and awards are made under:

South Australian businesses operate under national industrial relations (IR) laws.

Equal opportunity

Information on legal obligations for promoting equality at work can be found on the Equal Opportunity Commission website.

Work health and safety

Employers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees and comply with the Work Health and Safety Act 2012, which is administered by SafeWork SA.

SafeWork SA's workplace health and safety functions

If you have a specific enquiry, phone the SafeWork help centre on 1300 365 255.

Related information

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Page last updated 16 August 2022

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