other_icon.jpgAWAs, EBAs, workplace awards, 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 release last week of details of the Federal Government’s proposed changes to 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: Awards, Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) and Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).


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


Enterprise Bargaining Agreements override awards and may be determined by state or federal industrial tribunals. There are agreements that cover individuals and agreements that cover a particular workplace.


Australian Workplace Agreements, also referred to as individual contracts are negotiated by individual employees and their employer.


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



Awards set out minimum wages and conditions of employment for specified employees related to the particular industry or occupation to which the award relates. They include rates of pay, hours of work, penalty rates, casual and part-time work and grievance procedures and may include provisions about specific issues such as superannuation or long service leave.


Awards may be federal or State. Federal awards are made by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). NSW awards are made by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. This means that in some workplaces, a worker covered by a State award may have a colleague (in a different job category) who is covered by a Federal award.


Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs)


Enterprise agreements are a voluntarily agreement between employers and employees setting out the rights, entitlements and obligations of employers and employees. The main difference between awards and enterprise agreements is that enterprise agreements only apply to the employees of one particular organisation. In most cases, employees will seek to have a union to represent their interests in these negotiations. Like awards, enterprise agreements can either be State or Federal.


Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs)


An Australian workplace agreement (AWA) is an individual agreement between an employer and an employee about the employee’s wages and conditions of employment. Like enterprise agreements, AWAs override award conditions. The agreement must be lodged with the federal government’s Office of Employment Advocate.




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:

Federal Government employment and workplace relations services:-

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission:-

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

Your rights at work - ACTU website with information on proposed industrial relations changes

Labour Net - Your questions answered - provided by The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).:-

Australian Business Ltd – peak employer organisation.

Working Carers Support Gateway: online news, information and support for working carers