Australia: Workplace Relations Update

Last Updated: 17 October 2007


  • The fact sheet – a reminder
    Employers in the Federal system should now be aware of their obligation to give a copy of the Workplace Relations Fact Sheet to employees
  • A new low costs jurisdiction in Queensland for employment disputes
    The Queensland government recently passed the Industrial Relations Act and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2007 (Act) which will commence on 1 January 2008.
  • Employers may be vicariously liable for sexual harassment or sexual discrimination of employees outside of work
    In the recent case of Lee v Smith & Ors [2007] FMCA 59, the Department of Defence (Department) was held liable for the sexual assault, sexual discrimination, harassment and victimisation of an administration officer (Lee) who was employed by the Department at the Cairns naval base

The fact sheet – a reminder

Employers in the Federal system should now be aware of their obligation to give a copy of the Workplace Relations Fact Sheet to:

  • all employees employed after 20 July 2007 - within seven days of the commencement of their employment
  • all existing employees as at 20 July 2007 - by no later than 20 October 2007.

The Workplace Relations Regulations 2006 provide that an employer may provide a copy of the Fact Sheet to an employee in one of the following manners:

  • by giving a copy of the Fact Sheet to the employee personally
  • by sending a copy of the Fact Sheet by pre-paid post to the employee’s residential address or to a postal address nominated by the employee
  • by sending a copy of the Fact Sheet to the employee’s e-mail address at work or to another e-mail address nominated by the employee
  • by sending an electronic link to the page of the Workplace Authority’s website on which the Fact Sheet is located to the employee’s e-mail address at work or another e-mail address nominated by the employee
  • by sending an electronic link that takes the employee directly to the copy of the Fact Sheet on the employer’s intranet to the employee’s e-mail address at work or to another e-mail address nominated by the employee
  • by sending a copy of the Fact Sheet to the employee by facsimile to the employee’s facsimile number at work or at home or another facsimile number nominated by the employee.

Whilst the list set out in the regulations is not exhaustive and an employer may provide a copy of the Fact Sheet to an employee in a manner not specified in the list, we would recommend that employers adopt a manner specified in the list unless they are clearly unable to do so.

We would also recommend that employers keep records or retain evidence of providing a copy of the Fact Sheet to each employee within the requisite time frame so that they can demonstrate that they have complied with their obligations. For example, employers should:

  • require employees to sign and date a register acknowledging that they have been provided with a copy the Fact Sheet personally
  • retain copy letters, facsimiles and attachments together with evidence of delivery such as peel off registered delivery receipts or facsimile transmission reports
  • retain copy e-mails and attachments together with evidence of delivery such as delivery receipts or read receipts.

Employers should immediately provide a copy of the Fact Sheet to all existing employees and ensure that employment related policies and procedures and documents (including for example induction checklists) are updated to reflect the new obligations for new employees.

A copy of the Fact Sheet as produced by the Workplace Authority can be found on the Workplace Authority website. The Fact Sheet is also available in 12 community languages.

by Gisella D'Costa

A New Low Costs Jurisdiction In Queensland For Employment Disputes

The Queensland government recently passed the Industrial Relations Act and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2007 (Act) which will commence on 1 January 2008.

The Act provides for a new jurisdiction to be given to the Magistrates Court to deal with "employment claims" which fall outside the jurisdiction of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC).

To effect this change, the Act inserts a new Part 5A into the Magistrates Act 1921 (Qld) the object of which is "to reduce costs of proceedings brought in a Magistrates Court to low income employees against employers for breaches of contracts of employment." The new Part 5A allows employees who earn less than $98,200 per annum to bring a claim against their employer for a breach of an employment contract in this jurisdiction with lower court fees, and compulsory conciliation before hearings.

The Act limits representation during the conciliation process within the new jurisdiction but leaves open a right to legal representation in limited situations for conciliation. This means that where the matter is factually complex or involves questions of legal interpretation employers have the right to ask for legal representation to be allowed. Conciliation is the first compulsory phase of dealing with a claim and non-compliance with the conciliation process can result in the imposition of sanctions against the offending party.

The award of costs in relation to an ‘employment claim’ (including the costs of the conciliation) is limited to situations where the employee-plaintiff has been frivolous or vexatious in bringing the claim or where an unreasonable act or omission of one the parties relating to the conduct of the proceedings caused the other party to incur costs.

The court will be concerned with breaches of a contract and will not look at issues of fairness in the dismissal process generally as was the case under the unfair dismissal regime. On this basis it is difficult to accurately assess what the scope of exposure under the new regime will be for employers.

When terminating contracts of employment employers should always ensure they follow the termination procedure in the contract and seek legal advice where necessary.

by John-Anthony Hodgens

Employers May Be Vicariously Liable For Sexual Harassment Or Sexual Discrimination Of Employees Outside Of Work

In the recent case of Lee v Smith & Ors [2007] FMCA 59, the Department of Defence (Department) was held liable for the sexual assault, sexual discrimination, harassment and victimisation of an administration officer (Lee) who was employed by the Department at the Cairns naval base. The conduct was engaged in by three officers during the course of Lee's employment and she was, ultimately, sexually assaulted by an officer following a social dinner party held by a fellow employee.

The Department argued that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the assault from occurring, and that as a result, under section 106(2) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (Act), the Department should not be held vicariously liable for the assault.

Section 106(2) provides a defence to an employer if it can establish that in relation to the act by the employee, the employer took all reasonable steps to prevent the act from occurring. Federal Magistrate Connolly rejected the Department's argument that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the assault from occurring on the basis that the Department had inadequately dealt with Lee's complaint and that it took no action to deal with the sexual assault despite being clearly aware of Lee's allegation. His Honour concluded that the sexual assault was 'an extension or continuation of [the perpetrator's] pattern behaviour that had started and continued to develop in the workplace'.

The 'pattern behaviour' for which the three officers were found guilty included unwanted touching, sexual advances, comments and messages, displays of pornography, threats, verbal abuse, bullying and intimidation. The threats, abuse, bullying and intimidation coincided with Lee making a complaint to a colleague about the behaviour.

His Honour heard and accepted evidence from Ms Lee that as a consequence of the sexual assault and sexual harassment, she suffered post traumatic stress disorder and depression, was unemployed, and suffered serious damage to her personal relationships.

In a separate judgment, Federal Magistrate Connolly made an order that the Department and the three male officers pay to Lee damages in excess of $400,000 plus costs for the unlawful sexual harassment and assault of Lee. His Honour also ordered that the Federal Government re-employ Lee in a different government department.

Implications for employers

Employers may be held liable under the Act for acts of sexual assault, sexual harassment and/or discrimination of its employees, including acts which occur "after hours" unless they are able to establish they took all reasonable steps, in relation to those acts, to prevent the acts from occurring.

To this end, employers must ensure that they respond appropriately to all complaints of harassment, discrimination or bullying made by employees and act accordingly to address the complaints. Additionally, it is important for employers to ensure they have policies which prevent this behaviour and that all employees are aware of these policies through training and other means.

by Carly Neylan and Kathryn Dent



Kathryn Dent

t (02) 9931 4715


Mark Sant

t (02) 9931 4744




Ian Dixon

t (03) 9252 2553


Dan Feldman

t (03) 9252 2510


Steven Troeth

t (03) 9612 8421




John-Anthony Hodgens

t (07) 3231 1568




Nicholas Linke

t (08) 8233 0628




Tim Masson

t (08) 9223 9223




Stephen Devenish

t (07) 4031 1622


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.