Modern Awards, EAs, individual contracts, collective bargaining and casualisation of the workforce – are all acronyms and phrases relating to the workplace and to agreements between employees and employers.

With the changing details of the Federal Government’s industrial relations laws we have put together a list of definitions for the most common terms to help you find your way through the maze of the terminology relating to the proposed changes.

Existing workplace arrangements that set out the terms of employment including wages and conditions between employers and employees fall into three broad categories: Modern Awards, Enterprise Agreements (EAs) and Casualisation.

Awards are determined by State or Federal legalisation administered by relevant industrial tribunals and set out the employment conditions for a particular industry.

Following are the definitions of these main types of workplace arrangements.

Modern Awards

Modern awards are industry or occupation-based minimum employment standards which apply in addition to the National Employment Standards. They were created to establish one set of minimum conditions for employers and employees across Australia who work in the same industries and occupations.

On 1 January 2010 modern awards replaced thousands of federal and state-based awards (pre-modern awards). They cover most workplaces. The commencement of modern awards means that there have been changes to minimum terms and conditions for many employees. The changes vary by state, industry and employer.

A modern award covers all employers and employees who perform work in an industry or occupation covered by that particular modern award. However, modern awards may not apply to some managers. They may also not apply to high income employees (who have an appropriate written guarantee of annual earnings of more than $118,100 p.a. (during the year ended 30 June 2012 - indexed annually). Even if a modern award covers the industry they work in.

Modern awards do not apply to an employer who is bound by an enterprise award. An enterprise award regulates the terms and conditions of employment only in the single business specified in that award.

Enterprise Agreements (EAs)
Enterprise agreements are agreements made at an enterprise level between employers and employees about terms and conditions of employment. Fair Work Australia can assist in the process of making such agreements, can deal with disputes arising under the terms of agreements and assess and approve agreements.
Casualisation of the workforce is a general term referring to the increasing trend towards casual work being experienced in the Australian workforce. Over the past 20 years it is estimated that casual work has risen from 18 to 29 per cent of the Australian workforce.

For more information visit these websites:

Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales:-

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has a number of websites with information on current and proposed industrial relations laws:-

Australian Business Solutions Group – peak employer organisation.