2 Legislation and regulations


2 Legislation and regulations

Topic Progress:

2 Legislation and regulations

When we think about the history of industrial relations it was born out of the fight against the terrible conditions of the industrial revolution – the child working factories, the killer coal mines, the slavery that was the life of a factory worker.

Unions formed and fought great battles, people sacrificed much to gain the work conditions we have today.  But if you think about it, this is a system born of adversity, a time when someone won and someone lost.  Today we are undergoing a ‘knowledge’ revolution and in Western society we mostly enjoy fair and equitable workplace relations.   Is there a place today within this system for a 3rd alternative – a win/win?

It’s important to keep this history in mind when we work through the process of unpacking employee relations.

There is the law – the Acts and Regulations that form the legal framework and structure.   In Australia, the Fair Work Act and Regulations and the Fair Work system components support and enforce the laws as well as provide a place for adjudication and dispute resolution.  The Fair work Commission has many resources, including the Act and Regulations – visit their site and check out what they have.  In some industries, this will be local State Industrial Law and Regulations and the associated Industrial relations commission.   For example, the approach taken to nurse and midwifery staff allocation in the Victorian public health sector is defined in large part by the in the Victorian public health sector, Victoria there is now the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to patient ratio) Act 2015.  Check it out at: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/health-workforce/nursing-and-midwifery/safe-patient-care-act

What laws and regulations define how staff are managed and allocated in your sector?

This filters down to organisations in the form of their own processes to ensure that the organisation and staff comply with the legislation.  This is usually articulated in the HR policies and procedures and supported by an HR department in larger organisations.

And then there is the Art and the Science of employee relations – the dance and the games that people play.  Here you need to understand the players, their interests, their goals and what benefits they get in this process.  There are the rules and then the spaces between the rules………that is the art.

Finally there is the reality – the sometimes dirty, difficult, emotional and energy sapping reality.


Have you ever had to go to the Fair Work Commission or another industrial commission?  What was the experience?  What do you think it would be like? Share your thoughts in the comments.

It doesn’t have to be horrible.

How can you set yourself up for success?

Is there a space for a win/win or even better a collaboration that creates a 3rd alternative?


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