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Employment contracts can be confusing. This factsheet is designed to explain the key elements that are present in everyone’s employment contract and what you can do if you encounter problems.
If you have agreed with your employer that you will work in return for wages, you have an employment contract, regardless of whether or not your terms and conditions of employment are in writing. Having an employment contract, whether it is written or verbal, means that you are an employee. This is different from being an independent or sub-contractor. An employee is someone hired for their time and skills (and usually to continue doing a job), whereas a contractor is someone hired to perform a service (like fixing a broken hot water system).
Employment contracts come in various forms. They can be written or verbal or a combination of both. The written component can be named different things like ‘agreement’ or ‘terms and conditions of employment’ or ‘workplace agreement’.
There may be implied terms to your contract which were not written down or verbally agreed upon but which are still binding. There are also various other rules which might affect your employment such as modern award conditions, enterprise agreements and legislation covering anti-discrimination and health and safety.
For any new position you start or any new contract you may enter into from now onward, you cannot receive employment conditions that are less than the legal minimum standards that are set out in:
A contract containing terms and conditions that are lower than the minimum standards is unenforceable in relation to those terms and conditions. You may be able to recover money owed to you through FWO, your union or through private legal action.
For more information about employment contracts, minimum entitlements and obligations for employers and employees, download the fact sheet.