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Glossary of Common Industrial Relations Terms
































Statute Law






A process in which some of the conditions set down in an award are altered by a decision of the Commission. That is, the award is amended to reflect the new outcomes. Also known as a variation.




Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland


The Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland is an independent statutory body which administers the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991. The Commission conducts education activities and research projects, provides advice about anti-discrimination law and speaks as an independent voice on human rights issues. The Commission is also the first point of call for lodging complaints of discrimination.






Application to a higher Court for a review of a decided case.






A person who brings action in Court or Commission.






One bound by legal agreement to work for another for a specific amount of time in return for instruction in a trade, art, or business.






An employment-based training scheme approved under the Vocational Education, Training and Employment Act 2000. The apprenticeship involves a period of technical off-the-job and on-the-job training for each particular trade or occupation, usually of fixed duration, in which the apprentice is normally registered with one employer.






A system of dispute settlement in which an independent third party (e.g. Queensland Industrial Relations Commission) considers a dispute between two or more parties, and having taken submissions, decides upon the basis of agreement. The decision is then binding on the parties.






An award is a legally binding document approved by the Commission (federal or state) prescribing the minimum terms and conditions of employment for those employees covered by the application clause of an award.




Award Wage


The minimum rate of pay that must legally be paid to an employee covered by a particular award. An award generally contains a number of rates that vary according to: the age of the employee, their employment status (full-time, casual or part-time) and the employee's occupational classification.






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Business Hours


The hours of operation of the employer's business.






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Certified copy


A copy of a document which is endorsed as a true copy, often obtained from a government department or public officer.




Certificate of Employment


An employer, when asked by a person whose employment with the employer has been terminated, must give the person a certificate, signed by the employer, about the particulars prescribed under the Industrial Relations Act 2016.

A certificate of employment must include the following particulars:

  • the employee's full name and address;
  • a description of the trade or occupation in which the employee was employed;
  • the dates on which the employee started and finished employment with the employer;
  • the address of the workplace at which the employee was employed.

The certificate must be signed and dated by the employer.




Certified Agreement


A certified agreement is a written collective employment agreement that sets out the wages and working conditions for a particular group of employees. The group of employees may be the whole of a workforce or a specific group that is somehow separate and distinct. Certified agreements can cover a single workplace or be made to cover a group of associated employers.




Collective Bargaining


Collective bargaining is a way for employers, employees and their representatives to get together to decide on ways to improve how their business operates and how to share the rewards.






Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.




Common Law


That body of law that has developed through the precedent of judicial decisions as opposed to statute law.






The form filed to commence a civil action.






The person making the complaint.






An amount of money ordered by the Commission, in lieu of ordering reinstatement in "unfair dismissal" proceedings.






A dispute settling method in which a third party, usually an independent, seeks to bring the disputants to the point where they can reach agreement. The conciliator acts as an "honest broker" in the negotiations. In Australia, agreements produced through formal conciliation lead to changes in award provisions. If the conciliator is unsuccessful in settling some or all of the issues that are in dispute, these items can be referred to arbitration.

In reference to unfair dismissal, conciliation entails a conference held by the Commission, between the employer and employee to try and resolve unfair dismissal matters in dispute.




Contract of Employment


A derivative of the common law (of contract) as it relates to the contract between the master (the employer), and his servant (the employee), which is entered into upon employment. The contract of employment, which does not have to be written, is concerned with the rights and duties of the employer and employee and defines the nature of their relationship. The employer, for example, has a duty to indemnify the employee, to pay legal wages, and to provide work. The employee, on the other hand, has a duty of fidelity, and a duty to obey any lawful command.






Expenses involved in taking an action.






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The Court, the Commission, a Magistrate or the Registrar may make a decision or judgment it considers just, and include in the decision a provision it considers appropriate for preventing or settling the industrial dispute, or dealing with the industrial matter.




Declaration of Policy


The process under state arbitration systems where a decision applied to two or more parties can be applied or generalised to all other related parties by the Commission stating that, as a matter of policy, it will do certain things if specified prerequisites are met.






An authorised amount of money that is taken out of the employee's wages with the employee's written consent. For example, tax, superannuation, medicare, voluntary savings or union dues.






The person against whom a claim or action is taken.






A clause within an award that describes various provisions specific to that award.




Directions Order


An order that gives directions regarding service of an application and lists the details of a hearing, including time and date.





Each party lists all documents that are relevant to a matter where one party has the document in their possession or under their control. These documents may have the potential to advance one party's case or damage the other party's case. A document is not just a paper document, but includes audio tapes, computer and electronic records and videos.




Discrimination is where someone is treated, directly or indirectly, less favourably than another in similar circumstances because that person has or is believed to have one of the attributes identified in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (e.g. race, gender, marital status). Discrimination in the workplace often takes the form of harassment of an individual on the basis of an attribute or a perceived attribute.






The act of terminating an employee¿s employment contract. Some of the common reasons for dismissal are: constructive dismissal, summary dismissal, misconduct, fixed term contract, redundancy, voluntary redundancy, frustration of contract and absenteeism.




Duty of Care


A legal duty of employers to not expose their employees to risks to their health or safety.




Duty of Fidelity


A legal duty of an employee not to divulge information that may prejudice their employer's business to competitors.






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A person whose employment is governed by a contract of service or other relevant employment law, or a person defined as or deemed to be an employee under the Industrial Relations Act 2016.




Employee Association


See Union.






A person, corporation, enterprise or organisation that employs or engages a person or persons including those persons who are defined as an employer under the Industrial Relations Act 2016.




Employer Association


An organisation whose membership generally consists of employers who operate in the same or related industries and tend to act as coordinator of some industrial interest of the member companies. Registration with the Commission is mandatory for an organisation to be included under this heading.




Employment Separation Certificate


Employment Separation Certificates are administered by Centrelink to enable a person to claim Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance and in some cases, Parenting Payment. They are used to ensure that only eligible people get paid an allowance and that they are paid the right amount from the correct date.




Equal Employment Opportunity (E.E.O.)


A policy that is designed to eliminate the discriminatory work and employment practices that have disadvantaged various groups (e.g. women, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, and people with disabilities). Equal employment opportunity practices are relevant to all aspects of personnel practice in organisations.






The information presented to the Court or Commission upon which it makes a decision.






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Freedom of Association


The rights claimed by employees to organise and join trade unions in order to represent their interests.




Frustration of Contract


Where the employment contract comes to an end other than by resignation, unfair dismissal or the giving of notice (e.g. business destroyed by flood, death of an employee/employer, illness or injury of an employee that ends the contract).




Further Directions Order   An order issued after a listing. It can provide further directions regarding witness statements, exchange of documents or other matters and further dates of hearing.



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General Ruling


The process under State arbitration systems where a decision of the Commission is applied to two or more parties is or can be applied or generalised to all other related parties.






A particular complaint that is made by a group or individual regarding some specific aspect of their employment conditions or the policy and practices of their employer.




Grievance Procedure


A formal and agreed process that bargaining parties are required to follow in an attempt to deal with or resolve their grievances. Typically grievance handling follows a number of sequential steps that are laid down in the procedure. The steps tend to involve progressively higher levels of management and employee representatives. Procedures generally require the process to begin as near as possible to the level at which the grievance arises but the procedures themselves can extend beyond the workplace level. Many awards contain a grievance procedure.






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Harassment is any form of behaviour that is unwelcome, unreciprocated, unsolicited and usually (but not always) repeated which makes the workplace unpleasant, humiliating or intimidating for the person who is the target of that behaviour.






The presentation of the case/evidence before the Court or Commission.






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Industrial Court


The Industrial Court of Queensland is a superior court of record. Matters filed in the Industrial Court are predominently appeals from decisions of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and of Industrial Magistrates.




Industrial Dispute


A term referring to any disagreement in industrial relations, mainly between employers and employees. (Used synonymously with strike and other forms of industrial action).




Industrial Instrument


Includes an award, certified agreement, arbitration determination, code of practice or an order.




Industrial Officer


Authorised Industrial Officers are officers or employees of an industrial organisation (e.g. a union) who are authorised by the Industrial Registrar to exercise certain powers.






Inspectors are impartial officers employed by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. They give advice and assistance and ensure the provisions of awards and agreements are observed and met.






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The set of tasks that is allocated to an employee and that they are expected to carry out during their work day.






The power of the Court or Commission to hear a matter.






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Acts of Parliament or statutes.






Misconduct is any action or actions by the employee that would make it unreasonable to require the employer to continue the employment during the notice period. The Industrial Relations Act 2016 defines misconduct as including certain actions. These are:

  • theft; and
  • assault; and
  • fraud; and
  • other misconduct prescribed under a regulation.






The period of time that employees and employers are required to give to each other in regard to the termination of an employment contract. The period varies according to the length of service of the employee. In the event of an employer summarily dismissing an employee, other than for misconduct, the employee is entitled to be paid for the period of notice whether or not they actually work that time.






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A type of job, e.g. teacher, clerk, chef, motor mechanic.




Operative Date


The date at which an industrial instrument comes into force.




Ordinary Time Earnings


The term Ordinary Time Earnings may vary slightly in some awards, however, generally means the actual ordinary rate of pay the employee receives for ordinary hours or work including leading hand, in-charge or supervisory allowances where applicable. The term includes any over-award payment as well as casual rates received for ordinary hours of work.

Ordinary time earnings do not normally include overtime, disability allowances, commission, bonuses, and lump sum payments made as a consequence of the termination of employment, annual leave loading, and penalty rates for public holiday work, fares and travelling time allowances or any other extraneous payments of a like nature.




Ordinary Working Day


A day on which the employee would ordinarily be required to perform work.




Ordinary Working Hours


For an employee, means the hours between the employee's ordinary starting time and ordinary finishing time under a relevant industrial instrument.




Over-award Payment


Any part of ordinary hours pay that exceeds the amount set down in the award for ordinary hours. Also referred to as Above Award Payment.






Time worked outside, or in excess, of ordinary working hours. Such work is normally paid for at penalty rates stipulated in the relevant award or agreement.






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Payment for labour or services to an employee, especially remuneration on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis or by the piece.




Qualifying Period


A period of service that an employee must work before being entitled to various types of entitlements such as the joining of a superannuation scheme.




Queensland Industrial Relations Commission


Queensland tribunal that is responsible for regulating industrial relations. For more information click here.






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A written or verbal statement about a person's qualifications, character, and dependability.






An order for re-employment of an employee who is found by a tribunal or court to have been unfairly dismissed.






An employee's wage or salary including amounts payable or other benefits made available to an employee under a contract of service.






The voluntary notification by an employee to his or her employer that they intend to terminate their employment. This voluntary act can be distinguished from other methods of terminating employment such as dismissal or redundancy.






Person against whom the action has been taken.






Whereby an employee is dismissed because the employer has made a definite decision that they no longer require the job you are doing.






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Safety Net Adjustment


The process by which the Commission provides a wage increase for those employees who have not obtained a wage increase through enterprise bargaining. The aim of this adjustment is to ensure that the wages received by such employees do not fall below the minimum standards set by the Commission. These minimum standards are sometimes referred to as the "safety net".






Fixed compensation for services, paid to a person on a regular basis. The gross pay for an employee who is employed and paid a specified annual amount of pay. This is often paid irrespective of the hours actually worked. Salaries are typically paid fortnightly or monthly unlike hourly paid or wages' employees who tend to be paid weekly.






Agreed resolution of the matter.




Standard Hours


The number of hours determined to be the normal working week or day.




Statute Law


That body of law which is governed by Acts of Parliament.




Superannuation Guarantee


The superannuation guarantee ensures that most employees receive superannuation support from their employers. Click here for more information on the superannuation guarantee.






The term tends to be used to describe low-level managers who have the responsibility for monitoring the work of a small workgroup in an enterprise.






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The act of ending the employee/employer contract by either the giving of notice, instant dismissal, resignation or frustration of contract.






A person who is employed in a traineeship. A trainee and their employer sign a contract to work together so that the trainee can learn the skills of the occupation they have chosen.






An employment based training scheme approved under the Vocational Education, Training and Employment Act 2000. A traineeship can be full-time or part-time. Students can also start a traineeship while they are at school. The length of a traineeship depends on the industry, the occupation or trade, any previous training the trainee may have had and how quickly he or she learns the skill of the traineeship. Traineeships usually last one year.






The Industrial Relations Act 2016 defines a transfer of calling as including a transmission, assurance, conveyance, assignment or succession either by operation of law or by agreement including an agreement effected by a third person.






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Unfair Contract


A contract that:

  • is harsh, unconscionable, or unfair; or
  • is against the public interest; or
  • provides, or has provided, a total remuneration less than that which a person performing the work as an employee would receive under an industrial instrument or the Industrial Relations Act 2016; or
  • is designed to, or does, avoid the provisions of an industrial instrument.




Unfair Dismissal


A termination of an employment contract is unfair if it is:

  • for an invalid reason (i.e. the reason for dismissal is unfair or discriminatory); or
  • harsh, unjust or unreasonable (i.e. the dismissal procedure is unfair).






Common name for an employee organisation. Group of employees in similar occupations or industries who join together to bargain with their employers regarding working conditions.






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Voluntary Redundancy


When an organisation has surplus staff it can ask whether any employees are interested in accepting voluntary redundancy. This means that the employee would be paid an agreed lump sum, usually based upon their length of service, in lieu of ongoing employment. The policy helps the organisation downsize without having to terminate the employment of those who wish to retain their jobs.






Wages as an amount (including a salary) payable to an employee for:

  • work performed, or to be performed, by the employee; or
  • a public holiday; or
  • leave to which the employee is entitled; or
  • termination of employment,

and includes an amount payable from wages for the employee, with his or her written consent (e.g. if an employer fails to pay authorised deductions to a nominated organization, the unpaid amounts are wages which are still due and payable to the employee).






A person who gives evidence about matters they know which are relevant to the proceedings.






An insurance where employers are legally required to pay an annual premium to WorkCover. For this insurance, WorkCover pays benefits to workers who suffer work-related injury or illness. These benefits include income replacement, hospital and medical costs and lump sum compensation. These benefits are outlined in WorkCover's legislation.




Workers' Compensation


Payment in lieu of wages lost or compensation for personal injury sustained as a result of accidents in the course of employment, i.e. received at work or travelling to or from work.



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