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Employment Law is an increasingly diverse and complex field of legal regulation governing employment and industrial rights and obligations. In Australia, it comprises the common law of contract and several overlapping statutory schemes including principally the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), Commonwealth and State equal opportunity legislation, and work health and safety statutes. These different legal frameworks can only be fully understood and appreciated in their industrial, economic, social, and political contexts. Those contexts include international influences, dynamic federal-state relations, the tradition of Australian industrial relations with its values of industrial justice, strategic decision-making and advocacy of industrial associations, labour market trends, and new forms of business and work organisation.
This subject explores the field of employment law in detail, with a focus on the processes of law-making and intersections between different sources of rights and obligations. Dispute resolution and enforcement in the field of employment law poses particular challenges, across the different statutory frameworks, and these matters will also be closely examined.
The principal substantive topics that will be addressed in this subject may include:
- The common law framing of contracts of employment and the contracting arrangements of independent contractors and the self-employed;
- various aspects of the common law contract of employment including express and implied duties of employers and employees;
- international labour conventions;
- the constitutional framework underlying the Fair Work Act;
- statutory standards under the Fair Work Act regarding unfair dismissal, minimum wage rates, hours of work and leave;
- the regulation of employment rights and working conditions by awards and enterprise agreements under the Fair Work Act;
- the regulation of issues of discrimination and harassment under the Fair Work Act and equal opportunity legislation; and
- the regulation of work health and safety.
This subject will also examine a number of thematic issues, chosen from topics such as the rights of non-standard workers, fair treatment at work, safety at work, work-life balance, trade unions and freedom of association, employment security, and employment law responses to economic and organisational restructuring.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will have an advanced and integrated understanding of the specialised and cross-disciplinary field of employment law. This includes a deep appreciation of the intersections and specific contexts and histories of each unique regulatory framework that comprises employment law. Students will have obtained specialised skills to:
- Critically analyse and reflect on different literatures that seek to understand the field of employment law through, for example, capital and labour relations, regulation theory and critical approaches such as feminist scholarship;
- Engage in a sophisticated manner in debates taking place within Australia and internationally on the appropriate role of the state in regulating labour relations, in addition to contributing to debates regarding the legitimacy of the discipline of employment law within the legal academy; and
- Interpret and transmit technical knowledge and skills across the field of employment law through addressing problems and case studies of contemporary and emerging issues in the field.
Through assessment involving an independent research paper, students will have obtained specialised skills in self-directed legal research and in an autonomous and creative production of a substantial piece of legal writing that is thoroughly researched and develops arguments in a highly structured, supported and referenced way, with a high degree of original content.
Students who successfully complete this subject will have developed:
- An integrated understanding of the specialised subject-matter of employment law, through the different legal frameworks governing work relations;
- A sophisticated appreciation of, and ability to engage in, the complex theoretical, policy and practical debates taking place in Australia and elsewhere in relation to employment law and its enforcement; and
- An extended understanding of recent developments in the field, the literature, and the professional practice of employment law.
Last updated: 9 July 2020