Industrial Relations

What Is Industrial Relations?

Industrial relations, to put it simply, is the management of work-related obligations and entitlements between employers and their employees. It is critical that employers and workers understand whether their workplace is covered by either state or federal industrial relations systems.

Not sure what this means?

Let’s take a brief look at the history of industrial relations in Australia

When the Commonwealth was founded, the States only agreed to join if they could retain control of certain powers. We don’t want to go into too much detail of the complications that arose and the negotiations that took place or the reason Western Australia was not named in the Constitution, but it is sufficient to say we have the system we created and must deal with it as is.

Federal v State


It is common knowledge that the Federal Government regulates the labour market through the Fair Work framework; however, what is less well known is how and why.

Basically, the government of the day sought to use the constitutional power to govern corporations to regulate industrial relations in that area also. Therefore, the federal system applies to most companies but not all. In order to be covered by the Federal system, companies must be engaged in trade and commerce and that has been the subject of many court decisions with varied results (Shire councils are particularly interesting).


Western Australia is the only state that retains its powers to regulate with respect to sole traders, partnerships and state government employees (including local government in a lot of instances). There are many small businesses that operate as sole traders or partnerships and they employ a lot of people.

How Does It Affect You?

So what does this mean for employees and employers in Western Australia when it comes to the relationship between the two? It’s complicated is the answer.

The reason it is complicated is that there are employers out there who think that because they are incorporated they are covered by the federal system and there are sole traders and partnerships that think they are covered by the federal system because that is what is front and centre in the media.

If you have any questions in respect of this type of matter or you wish to implement any changes in the workplace, whether it is bargaining a new agreement or questions as to the relevant State or Federal Awards/Agreements, Anvil Legal can assist you.

The Founder and Principal Lawyer at Anvil Legal, Brett Owen, is highly experienced and knowledgeable in industrial relations.

To make an appointment to discuss your matter please call our office on (08) 6143 5200 or you can send a FREE Enquiry Here.


Industrial Relations Frequently Asked Questions

What is Industrial Relations?
Industrial relations refers to the relationship between employers and employees in industry and the political decisions and laws that affect it.
Who Regulates the National Industrial Relations System?
The national industrial relations system is regulated by the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act), with the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman overseeing its implementation in workplaces.
What Does An Industrial Relations Lawyer Do?
An industrial relations lawyer will be able to advise you on matters including: unfair dismissal; occupational health and safety; theft of confidential information or trade secrets; improper use of company property; compliance with all relevant legislation; advice and assistance with employment disputes.
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