The world of work has a language of its own! Here are some words and jargon that you might encounter on the job or when learning about work. From arbitration and awards to white collar and work to rule – we hope you find this helpful. If you want us to add any new words, send us your suggestions.

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An employee who is absent or not available for work as scheduled.


When an employee constantly or continuously fails to attend work as scheduled. In particular when their absence forms a pattern which suggests that the employee is dissatisfied with their work or that their absence could have been avoided. Absenteeism can be considered grounds for dismissal.


The Prices and Income Accord (1983-1997) was a process where the ACTU and the then Federal Labor Government worked together on wages, prices and other policies to find common goals. The Accord was re-negotiated eight times to reflect the changing economic and social factors in Australia. Medicare was introduced under the Accord, as were child care subsidies, superannuation for all workers (not just executives) and improved job protection and security.


Refers to official recognition by State or Territory vocational education and training authorities concerning the contents and standards of a course. This is to ensure sound delivery methods and that curriculum and assessment methods will enable the achievement of the required competency and national standards.


See Australian Council of Trade Unions.


When two or more organisations join and are represented as one. Affiliation is often designed to help shared industrial or political goals.

Affirmative action

Positive action taken to create a situation which promotes and assists elements of equal opportunity. This can mean removing barriers to equal opportunity in the workplace, such as training women so that they are eligible for a promotion.


Payments made to employees that are in addition to their ordinary wage rate to compensate for some particular disability or aspect of work. Allowances are granted to employees working in hot, dirty and confined spaces; where clothing is subject to undue wear and tear; or when an employee has to pay travel or accommodation expenses.



When two or more companies or organisations join and transfer their finances to a new company or to an existing company.

Annual leave

Paid leave which is usually four weeks each year. In most cases you are eligible for annual leave after twelve months of continuous service with one employer.


A person (often a young person) who works for another under an obligation to learn a trade.


A form of on-the-job training where an apprentice is under contract to an employer to learn all aspects of a trade. An apprentice will often also simultaneously undertake off-the-job training.


A process in the federal and state industrial relations system where a dispute is resolved by a hearing in front of an third independent party, who hears the evidence from each party. The decision of the third party which resolves the dispute then becomes law.


An independent person or tribunal who resolves disputes by using their judgment to form the best solution. The role of the arbitrator is similar to that of an umpire. On a national level, this arbitrator is usually the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC).


The design of courses and qualifications so that one level in a multi level structure is a `building block’ for the next level.


The process of determining whether or not an individual worker is competent when their skills and background is compared to the relevant standards.

Australian Chamber of Commerce And Industry (ACCI)

The peak council of Australian business associations. Its members are employer organisations in all States and Territories and all major sectors of Australian Industry.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

The peak organisation which represents unions in Australia and internationally. The ACTU was established in Melbourne in 1927 when the State Labor Councils and the then federal unions recognised the need for an organisation to represent the national interests of the unions. Today the ACTU speaks on behalf of its 65 member unions on issues that are of interest to all Australian workers.


When the human performance of activities is replaced with mechanical or electronic processes.


A legal document which specifies the minimum conditions under which you are employed. It covers matters like wages, holidays, sick leave and overtime. Awards sometimes also set out the basic requirements of things like maternity leave. Employers must abide by the conditions of the award because it is a legal document.

Award rates

The rates of pay set by an award; a set of minimum wages and conditions that are legally binding on employers and workers.


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Back pay

Money that is owed by an employer to an employee for work already done.

Bargaining power

The ability to secure an agreement that is closest to your own terms and conditions as possible.

Base rate

The regular rate of pay which does not include any extra money for such things as overtime or meals allowances.

Basic wage

Introduced in 1907 by Justice Higgins in the Harvester case, the basic wage was the minimum amount that an employer could pay their employees. Based on the need to support a family of five, it was regarded as a fair and reasonable wage for a male without regard to the type of job he did or the industry in which he worked. The basic wage was influential in federal award wage decisions until the mid 1960s when it was replaced by the minimum wage.


A measure of business performance compared with the best achievements of similar organisations around the world.

Bereavement leave

A small amount of paid leave included in some awards and agreements that allows an employee to take time off work on the occasion of the death of their spouse, defacto partner or a close relative.

Best practice

When businesses are internationally competitive through efficient work and management practices, including reforms such as restructuring.

Blue collar worker

Traditionally a worker who performs manual labour or in production and gets a weekly wage rather than a salary. Compare to white collar worker.


See employer.


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An occupation selected and pursued as the chief area of employment during your working life. A career usually involves the development of skills and the aim of successive promotions.

Career path

The way in which your career develops. The development depends on a variety of factors like your personal capabilities, skills, experience and the opportunities available for training and advancement.

Carer’s leave

See family leave.

Casual work

Often temporary work which does not offer the protection of a permanent job. Casual employees are not usually entitled to benefits associated with continuous employment – although they are often entitled to a ‘loading’ on top of the rate for permanent workers. This is designed compensate for missing out on sick leave, holiday pay and other benefits.

Centralised wage fixation

See wage fixation.

Ceremonial leave

Allows people to participate in ceremonial activities associated with the death of a family member. Ceremonial leave is leave without pay, and can be taken for a maximum of 10 days over a two year period.

Child labour

When children under fifteen are made to do work that is physically or mentally harmful and which interrupts their education or social development.


See job classification.

Code of conduct

Ethics agreement such as those of Australian companies and sporting associations which oppose the purchase of any goods or services produced by children.

Collective bargaining

A method of negotiation to settle industrial disputes between employees and employers, which is negotiated as a group rather than as individuals.

Company agreement

See enterprise agreement.

Compassionate Leave

Leave which allows an employee to deal with a crisis in the family, normally the death of a family member. Compassionate leave may also cover a serious or incapacitating illness of a family member.


The skills required to perform the tasks which your job requires.

Competency Standards

National standards which define the practical work skills required for effective performance in the workplace.

Competency-based wages

Rates of pay which reflect your level of skill and job competencies.


The process used to resolve industrial disputes in which a neutral third party attempts to persuade the conflicting parties to settle their differences. It is the first formal stage in the settlement of an industrial dispute in the Australian industrial relations system. It may be followed by arbitration if an agreement is not reached.

Conditions of employment

The terms under which an employee accepts to work in a particular job, such as a wage or salary amount and working hours. Conditions of employment are set out in an award, employment contract or an industrial agreement.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The Consumer Price Index is the average cost of a ‘basket’ of retail goods over a set period. Used to calculate inflation.


An employment agreement between employer and employee which is enforceable by law. A contract of employment sets out the conditions and terms under which an employee accepts to work in a particular job – such as the wage or salary amount, number or spread of working hours and whether overtime is paid or allowed. See also Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA).

Contract of employment

An agreement between employer and employee that is enforceable by law. Employers can override Award pay and conditions on an individual basis by using Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts). Know your rights before signing an individual employment contract.

Craft union

A union which represents workers who practice a particular trade skill, or a group of related skills. Many of today’s unions started as craft unions but have broadened to represent entire industries. See trade union.


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See payroll deduction.


See union delegate.


These are ‘barriers’ between work tasks that separate groups of employees from other groups, often within one workplace. A demarcation dispute occurs when these barriers are not clear-cut and there is a dispute over which workers have the right to perform a type of work or task.


When restraints and influences that affect market forces in employment and industrial relations are loosened by the government. When financial markets are deregulated, it allows more open competition.


When someone is not treated as fairly as someone else in a similar situation, or treated differently because they are different in some way.


When your contract of employment is ended by management. In most cases you are entitled to receive notice of your dismissal and be paid for the period of notice and any pay and leave that is owing to you. See unfair dismissal


See unemployment benefits.

Double time

A penalty rate of pay set at twice the standard rate. Double time is usually only paid to employees who work on weekends or on public holidays.


When an organisation reduces the number of its employees, usually in response to financial hardship.

Dress standard

The style of clothing or uniform that you are required to wear as a condition of your employment.


A course which is recognised both academically (by a school or college) and vocationally (by an employer or industry).


Are union membership fees. The amount you pay is usually determined by the hours you work each week or your earnings. This system is designed to be fair for everyone.

Duty statement

See job description.


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Electronic commerce is the online buying and selling of goods and services, whether between businesses or from business to customer. Examples of e-commerce are shopping websites, online banking, Internet advertising and web data management.

Efficiency (in employment)

The ability of an employee to competently perform an activity within a set time.


A person working under the control or direction of another, under a contract of employment in return for a wage or salary.

Employee share plan

A program in which employees are able to buy shares in the company for which they work. Share plans are often based on the expectation that if a worker has a financial interest in the company, they are more likely to work harder and be less likely to participate in industrial disputes.


A person or organisation who employs workers under a contract of employment. Employers exercise some control over their workers and are responsible for the payment of wages or salaries and for providing a safe working environment.

Employer associations

An organisation of employers who share similar interests and areas of trade and which aims to promote and represent their opinions and concerns.


A contract between an employer and employee in which the employee agrees to provide services under the direction and control of the employer in return for a salary or wage paid by the employer.


A business or a project undertaken.

Enterprise agreement

A negotiated deal about the conditions under which employees are employed within a business. An enterprise agreement is negotiated by an employer and employees or by their union. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) checks enterprise agreements to ensure basic minimums are upheld.

Enterprise award

An award that is negotiated specially to suit the workers at a single company.

Enterprise bargaining

The process which employers and employees use to negotiate a set of rules and conditions for their workplace and which results in an enterprise agreement. Other terms to describe enterprise bargaining include: workplace bargaining, collective bargaining, over award bargaining and company bargaining.

Enterprise union

A union which was created by and for the exclusive representation of employees from a single enterprise or company.


The rights which you have access to at work such as holidays, sick leave and allowances.


A person who organises or manages a business, particularly if there is a degree of risk involved. Often used to refer to small business people.

Entry level skill

Skills required to commence paid employment in an organisation.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

See equal opportunity.

Equal opportunity

The law in Australia which says that everyone who has the necessary skills, experience and qualifications to do a job should be given an equal chance of getting that job.

Equal pay

The principle that men and women should receive the same payment when they perform the same work.


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Family leave

The right of workers to take a certain number of days off from work each year to meet their family responsibilities. It is also known as personal carer’s leave. A family member is defined as either a member of your household or a member of your immediate family and includes same sex partners.


A system of work which allows employees to start and finish work between a flexible range of agreed hours, so long as they work a set amount of hours each day or week. For example, an employee may be required to work eight hours a day, but may start work at any time between 7 am and 9 am and finish work eight hours later, between 3 pm and 7 PM


The practice of maintaining a fair wage structure by passing on wage increases or improved conditions achieved by one group of workers to employees in other industries or states.


A person such as a journalist or photographer who does not work on a regular basis for any one company, but who provides their services to a range of employers.

Full-time employment

Traditionally means a ‘regular job’. Work that is about eight hours a day, five days a week and forty-eight weeks of the year with four weeks paid leave.


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Glass ceiling

The concept of an invisible barrier which prevents women (and others) from reaching the highest levels of management.

Green ban

A refusal by employees to work, or allow work to proceed on a project which may result in damage to the environment – either natural or historical.

Gross pay

The amount an employee has earned before their income tax and other deductions are subtracted from their pay.

Group certificate

A form which shows your gross pay, net earnings, tax and other deductions which is given to workers by employers at the end of the financial year for taxation purposes.


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Any unwanted or uninvited behaviour which is offensive, embarrassing, intimidating or humiliating. It is against the law for a person to be harassed because of their sex; pregnancy; race (including colour, nationality, descent, ethnic or religious background;) marital status; disability; homosexuality; age; for their relationship to or association with a person of a particular sex; race marital status etc. Harassment is a form of discrimination.

Harvester case

In the Harvester case of 1907, Justice Higgins ruled that the basic wage was the minimum amount that an employer could pay their employees. Justice Higgins set the minimum weekly wage based on ‘the normal needs of the average employee’ (regarded as a human being living in a civilised society). The judgement was designed to ensure that a worker could keep his wife and children healthy and comfortable. It did not cover female workers as it was assumed they would be supported by either their father or their husband.

Holiday pay

See leave loading.

Home based work

Unsupervised work performed in an employee’s home which is often a way for parents to strike a balance between family and work. International studies have shown that home-based work arrangements can contribute to improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and improved morale and employee commitment. Home-based work also has a negative side. See outwork.

Human rights

The basic right of all humans to things like liberty and security as well as freedom from discrimination and the right to equal treatment under the law.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)

A Commonwealth government body established under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act 1986 which looks after issues like human rights, anti-discrimination, social justice and privacy in Australia. The HREOC aims to promote a fairer society by protecting basic human rights and ensuring that Australia complies with its human rights obligations under international law.


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Incentive scheme

A scheme devised to encourage employees to produce a greater output or harder work in return for a share in company profits or other bonuses.


What is earned from work or business.

Income tax

A government tax charged on what you earn from work or business each year. The amount of income tax you pay is dependent on how much you earn and certain other entitlements and exemptions.


A process of initiation into a new job or company. Induction ranges from formal orientation programs to informal familiarisation and social events.

Industrial action

An organised disruptive act taken by a group of workers – such as a strike or stop-work meeting. ‘Protected industrial action’ is the term used for a legal strike in Australia. Under the law employees cannot be disadvantaged for being part of a protected action.

Industrial dispute

A disagreement between employers and workers. Some common subjects for industrial disputes are wages and conditions, occupational health and safety, unfair dismissals or environmental issues.

Industrial relations

The relationship between employers and employees.


A particular branch of trade or manufacture or any large scale business activity.

Industry organisations

Organisations which represent industry, including peak business and union organisations, as well as specific Industry Training Advisory Bodies (ITABs).

Industry restructuring

Major changes to an industry, normally to rearrange the way work and companies are organised in order to make them more competitive.

Industry sectors

The division of industry into the interrelated sectors of primary, secondary and tertiary which represent the different sources of national economy and trade.

Industry superannuation fund

Sometimes your superannuation is paid into an industry superannuation fund. These funds return on your investments to your account instead of to other company shareholders. This means that industry superannuation fund fees are generally lower and the returns are generally higher. They also have coordinators who visit workplaces to help with employee and employers’ superannuation queries.


Rate of increase in prices as measured by the increase in the price of a ‘basket’ of goods and services measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. See CPI.

Information society

A society where communication and information technologies influence the everyday lives of most of its members. Helped by the advance of the Internet and a ‘wired’ culture, technology is used for a wide range of personal, social, educational and business activities, and to transmit receive and exchange digital data rapidly between places despite great distances. In an information society, information is as powerful a resource as the manufacturing and agricultural industries were in previous eras. Also known as the knowledge economy, digital era or information superhighway.

International labour convention

An international standard which has the status of an international treaty. These standards cover such things as working conditions, equal opportunity, social security, forced labour, freedom of association and minimum age restrictions.

International Labour Organisation (ILO)

A specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognised human and labour rights. It was founded in 1919 and has established a system of international standards that address work issues. These standards cover such things as working conditions, equal opportunity, social security, forced labour, freedom of association and minimum age restrictions. International Labour Conventions are like international treaties and Australia has promised to support the requirements of fifty-seven of those conventions.


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Job classification

A system where jobs are grouped into categories which correspond with the amount of training, skill, competencies, knowledge or experience required to do them. Each job classification has a specific rate of pay related to it which is set out in awards and agreements.

Job description

A document which describes the purpose, expected activities and responsibilities of a particular job.

Job satisfaction

The extent to which you are content with the work you do and the conditions which you work under.

Job security

The degree to which your position is protected from dismissal or retrenchment.

Job sharing

When two or more people share a single job, and the wage of one person is split between them.


A category of pay or status based on age (or experience) which is generally inferior to adult pay and status.


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Knowledge economy

See information society.

Knowledge worker

A worker who manipulates symbols (mostly words or numbers) rather than machines. They often use information technology for data collection and analysis and in the communication of knowledge.


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Labour force

See workforce.

Labour law

Laws which deal with employees and employers and the relationship between them. Labour laws cover things like job security, industrial agreements, strikes and conciliation and arbitration.

Labour market

The total population available to work, whether working or unemployed.


To sack or dismiss a worker or workers, often at times of financial hardship.

Leave loading

A pay bonus when on recreation leave based on the theory that workers are entitled to extra money because when they are on holidays and they won’t be paid extra for working overtime.

Leave permission

To be absent from work.


A law or a group of laws which includes not only Acts of parliament but also other general legal rules and regulations.


A legal obligation or responsibility.

Lieu days

Days granted as leave in the place of extra payments for such things as overtime. Also known as TOIL (Time Off In Lieu).

Living wage

The ACTU Living Wage claim seeks fair and reasonable wages for all Australian workers, emphasizing the importance of adequate award rates of pay to enable workers to participate effectively in the Australian community.

Log of claims

A written set of ‘claims’ or demands presented to an opponent. In industrial relations, once a log of claims is served and rejected, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) can hear the matter.

Long service leave

A long period of absence from work, which comes after extended years of service to a company or organisation.


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People who hold a higher degree of responsibility in a company or organisation; those who govern or control; executives.

Maternity leave

Unpaid leave, usually between six and 52 weeks, available to female employees who have been in the permanent employ of one employer for a set period (usually 12 months) before taking leave and who are pregnant at the time of application for leave. Maternity leave enables a working woman to have and care for her child for a limited period without losing her job. The introduction of maternity leave was a vital leap forward for women workers as it provided greater workplace equality for women. The government plans to introduce a paid leave scheme from 2011.

Merit-based selection

Employment policy that is free from discrimination which recruits on the basis of a person’s skills, qualification and worth.

Middle management

As the term suggests, management midway between senior executives and shop floor managers.


Aggressive or warlike; belligerent.

Minimum rates award

An award which sets out the minimum amounts which may legally be paid to employees and which does not prevent the payment of higher amounts.

Minimum wage

The lowest amount which can legally be paid to an employee under an award or agreement. Justice Higgins in the Harvester judgement of 1907 set the minimum weekly wage based on ‘the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilised society’.


Means training an employee to cover a range of different jobs in one workplace.


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National wage principles

Guidelines set by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) which are designed to govern decisions which AIRC makes about work.

Natural attrition (in employment)

The gradual reduction in the number of employees by natural means, for example, by retirement, resignation or death. Natural attrition is sometimes used as an alternative to retrenchment when an organisation wants to reduce its workforce.


When two parties discuss what they want in order to reach an agreement.

No disadvantage test

An employer can offer an individual contract called an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) which overrides the working conditions set out in an award or enterprise agreement. This means an employer can offer a package that includes reduced conditions or pay, such as less annual leave or overtime payments. The Employment Advocate checks that you will not be worse off overall if you accept the terms of the AWA. They do this by applying a ‘no disadvantage’ test.

No-strike clause

A part of an agreement that rules out strikes during the life of an industrial agreement.


A notification of the end of employment which comes from either an employer or employee.


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A type of job or career.

Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S)

The general area of concern in employment which covers the physiological and psychological well-being of persons engaged in work. Employers have a common law duty to take reasonable care to guard their employees’ health and safety at work.

Occupational stress

Worry or anxiety at work when a person feels that the demands and pressures of their job are more than they can handle.


An official appointed to investigate complaints against governments and government agencies.

Organisational chart

A map that shows how responsibility is organised in a business.


A union employee who helps union members with collective action in the workplace.

Out source

When a company or organisation employs another party to perform work which might otherwise have been done within the structures of that company or organisation.


Work done at the place of a worker’s choosing, usually at home, in return for money. It is normally carried out without direct supervision by the employer or contractor. Outworkers traditionally are not independent, they do home-based work because of family responsibilities or lack of skills.

Over award

A rate of pay which is higher than that awarded by an industry tribunal for a particular job classification. This happens either formally, as part of an enterprise agreement, or informally as an extra payment in your wage each week.


The time worked before or after your regularly scheduled working hours. When there were very few rules about how long people were required to work, the trade union movement campaigned for shorter working hours. Their catch cry was `8 8 8′ – that’s eight hours work, eight hours play and eight hours sleep. So began the idea that if you were required to work more than eight hours in one day you should get paid more for the extra hours.


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Parental leave

The entitlement of both male and female employees to take six weeks paid leave when their baby is born.


The national or State governing body of elected representatives which makes law.

Part-time work

A potent force in Australian industry; especially as many part-time jobs are in the fast growing services sector. Part-time workers are permanent employees who have a set number of weekly working hours. Many part-time workers receive benefits like those of full-time workers on a proportional or pro rata basis.

Paternity leave

The right of fathers to take leave as the primary caregiver for their new born or newly adopted child.

Pay equity

See equal pay.

Payroll deduction

An amount of money which is taken with permission directly from an employee’s pay before they receive it. A part from income tax, common payroll deductions include superannuation and union dues.

Penalty rate

A higher rate of pay which compensates for work done outside usual hours such as late at night or on public holidays.

Performance appraisal

A review of the standard and efficiency of the work completed by an employee.


A pleasant and sometimes unexpected bonus which accompanies a job or enterprise, such as a company car.


The total staff who work for a company or organisation.


Occurs when striking workers gather together outside their place of work. This is one of the most highly publicised forms of industrial action.

Piece work

When workers are paid by the piece they make or complete, such as in sewing or manufacturing.

Primary industry

The industries that produce raw materials and exploit natural resources such as minerals, forestry and farming.

Private sector

The business or commercial community which is engaged in private enterprise and is free from government ownership. See public sector.

Production line

A line of assembly where a number of people or machines perform separate tasks in the production of a product.


A measure of efficiency based on a comparison between the costs of input and output.


An occupation which requires knowledge gained through academic study, such as law, medicine or teaching.


Financial gain; the surplus remaining to the employer or company after basic costs (such as wages) are paid.

Profit sharing

When an employee receives a share in the profits of the company or organisation they work for, particularly as an incentive.

Protective clothing

Special clothing designed to be worn in the workplace in order to prevent or minimise illness and injury.

Public holiday

An official holiday for the majority of the state or country.

Public sector

The section of the business community which is owned or controlled by government. See private sector.

Public service

The departments and personnel responsible for government administration.


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Often used by employers to describe a training or education achievement, such as a degree, diploma or certificate. It also includes qualities or accomplishments which make a person suitable for a position.

Quality assurance

Systems used to make sure that work and products are of a suitable standard.

Quality control

A method of monitoring the quality of a manufactured product, which is often based on random checks.


See resignation.


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Racial discrimination

Discrimination based on race, colour, nationality, descent, ethnic or religious background.


The confirmation or approval of an agreement.


A rostered day off.


A downturn in the level of economic activity that is less severe than a depression. A decline in business confidence and prices, an increase in unemployment and a decrease in production are all signs of a recession.


When employees are laid off on a permanent basis because their work is no longer required by the company due to economic, technological or other reasons.

Redundancy payments

A pay out of money received by an employee when he/she is made redundant.

Reform agenda

A list of improvements which a group wants to make.

Registered agreement

An agreement about wages and conditions of employment which has been negotiated between a union and an employer and which has been formally endorsed by the relevant tribunal.

Registered Training Organisation (RTO)

A registered organisation which delivers a range of training products and services, and which is nationally recognised as the deliverer of those services.


When governments control industrial relations matters through laws, tribunals and labour courts rather than allowing employers and employees and their representative associations to sort out their differences themselves.


Assistance for employees who are injured at work get back into the workforce (into an old or new job) either through therapy, training, or by a gradual process of return to work.


When a person who has been wrongfully dismissed, demoted or transferred is returned to their former position.


Money paid or a benefit given to a person in return for their services. Usually means a wage or salary but can also take the form of a special payment such as a bonus or a benefit.

Research and Development (R&D)

Using research to discover ways of improving, inventing or developing products, services, techniques and production processes. Also a department of an organisation, a whole organisation, or a division of an industry which performs research and development activities.


When an employee tells his / her employer of their intention to leave their job and therefore terminate their contract of employment.


A decision of a meeting or the settlement of an industrial dispute or issue.


A document which lists and summarises your career achievements and experiences. Also known as a curriculum vitae.


Money used to secure the services of a professional or adviser and to make sure they are available when required. Sometimes, payment for actual services is made separately.


When a person stops working permanently or withdraws from their position, usually because of their age.


The permanent dismissal of an employee or employees in order to reduce the workforce in times of economic hardship.

Right to strike

The right of workers to withdraw their labour in order to protect their interests. The right to strike is widely regarded as a fundamental freedom, although is usually limited by certain restrictions.

Right to work

The right of workers not to be excluded from employment because of discrimination; the right of workers to employment, a decent living, job protection and compensation.


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Sack, get the

See dismissal.


A protective condition contained in the award which prevents employers from paying their employees less than the award minimum, or offering working conditions below the award standard.


A payment received by an employee for regular work. A salary is usually calculated as the amount an employee earns in an entire year, and is usually paid in fixed fortnightly or monthly amounts. See wage.

Seasonal work

Work which is only carried out during certain seasons of the year, such as fruit picking.

Secondary industry

The manufacturing sector of industry, where raw materials are turned into saleable products.


A person who earns their income from their own work or business, rather than working for someone else and receiving a salary or wage.


When an industrial dispute is concluded and all of the parties involved agree or accept a compromise. A settlement is also the name for the decision of an industrial tribunal when it resolves a dispute.

Severance pay

The final payment made to an employee when their employment is terminated. It includes payment for any unused leave and pay owed.

Sex discrimination

Discrimination on the grounds of sex. The Sex Discrimination Act was passed in 1984 to stop people being discriminated against because of their sex, marital status, pregnancy or family responsibilities.

Sexual harassment

Any unwanted or uninvited sexual behaviour which is offensive, embarrassing, intimidating or humiliating. It has nothing to do with mutual attraction or friendship. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and is against the law.

Shift work

A period of work which is performed outside the normal spread of hours, particularly when a factory or business operates on a 24 hour basis.

Shop floor

The part of a factory or workshop where machinery is operated. Also a place of work (colloq).

Shop steward

An elected union official with the responsibility of representing union members in disputes with employers or governments and communicating between workers and their union. Also known as union delegate or union representative.

Sick leave

Paid official absence from work granted to employees when they are ill.

Skills gap

See skills shortage.

Skills shortage

When there are not enough skilled workers to meet employers’ demands.

Small business

An independently owned and managed business which employs less than twenty people and is and closely controlled by the owner manager who also contributes financially to its maintenance.


A short break from work usually for refreshment (colloq.).

Social wage

The benefits to workers which come from a source other than the wage component of their pay packets. The social wage comprises benefits such as: Medicare, superannuation, child care and family payments, including maternity allowance.


A person with an investment (financial or otherwise) in the outcomes or success of a enterprise.

Standard rate

The award or agreed rate of pay for a job, grade or occupation. Also a usual weekly, monthly or annual rate of pay.


A temporary suspension of employees, without pay, who are not involved in a strike action but are not able to perform their regular work as a result.


The withdrawal of workers’ services in order to pressure an employer or third party (such as government) to yield to demands, or to protest against terms or conditions. Strike action may take the form of mass nonattendance at work; leaving the job or the workplace (a walkout); or employees remaining at their places but doing no work (a sit-down strike).


The money put aside during your working life for use when you retire. An employer must contribute 9% of their employee’s wages into a superannuation fund. Superannuation is an additional benefit on top of a wage or salary.


The maintenance or preservation of things such as natural resources so that those resources are not exhausted in the short term.


A workshop or factory which employs workers at low wages for long hours in unsanitary, hazardous or otherwise unsatisfactory conditions. This term originates from the idea of people sweating because they’re working so hard under such conditions.


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A compulsory financial charge imposed by governments on such things as income, goods and property for use in public spending and administration.


A tax imposed by the government on the export and, in particular, the import of goods. Tariff protection is designed to create an environment where Australian-made goods such as motor cars, clothes and footwear can compete favourably with cheaper goods manufactured overseas.


A skilled, nonprofessional with specialist training in the method or performance of an operation.


A branch of knowledge that deals with science, computers or engineering or its practice; a scientific innovation or an invention associated with computers or engineering.


Working from home but often linking into their employer’s office via the Internet. Telecommuters normally work a few days at home and a few in a traditional office.

Tertiary education

Advanced level formal education at a TAFE college, college of advance education, university or any other specialist college once secondary schooling is completed.

Tertiary industry

A section of industry which covers basic infrastructure and the provision of services. It includes such things as finance or transport as well as the direct marketing or selling of products.

Trade and Labour Councils

Regional peak bodies which represent unions.

Trade Practices Act

Laws which govern the conduct of business.

Trade union

An organisation of employees, which acts collectively for mutual protection and assistance and is often concerned with wages and conditions of employment. Unions represent workers in dealings with employers and government. Many unions also offer extra services to their members such as advice about finances, access to health services, such as dental care, scholarships to help pay for school books or discount movie tickets.


The buying, selling or exchanging of commodities within a country or between countries.


A type of business vocation pursued as a business or a calling, such as a technical craft or mechanical work.


Those who engage in a form of commercial occupation, in particular a line of skilled or mechanical work.


An employee who receives on-the-job training and sometimes formal education. See apprentice.


Workplace learning programs offer the opportunity to stay at school, keep learning and start getting the skills and experience needed for a career.


The development of skills or knowledge through instruction or practice; a kind of vocational learning such as an apprenticeship or traineeship which includes both formal education and on-the-job experience.


A special law court which hears and settles industrial (and other) disputes.


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The portion of the workforce who are able and willing to work but unable to find jobs.


Involuntarily and temporarily without a job, although able and willing to work.

Unemployment benefits

A regular social security payment for people who are registered with the Government as unemployed. The unemployment benefit helps with living and job seeking costs. Also known as the dole (colloq).

Unfair dismissal

See wrongful dismissal.


See trade union.

Union delegate

An elected union official with the responsibility of representing union members in a workplace or company. A union delegate is also responsible for ensuring that members understand what is happening with their union and that the union understands the issues which are important to the members in that particular workplace. Also known as a shop steward or a union representative.

Union organiser

Also known as a shop steward or a union representative.

Union representative

See organiser.

Unpaid trial work

A common – and illegal – way of exploiting young people who are trying to gain work experience. Unpaid trial work should not be confused with school work experience programs. With formal work experience, clear boundaries are set as to when the work will start and finish and a nominal fee is usually paid.

Unskilled work

Work which lacks specialist training or ability and generally involves simple manual operations which can be learned in a short time.


A system which means that it’s up to each person to pay their own way (such as in education) irrespective of the amount of money they or their parents earn.


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A business enterprise or project, sometimes with a degree of financial risk involved.


An occupation, profession, or trade, especially as a long term career.

Vocational education and training

Training or education which focuses on preparing students for a trade or commercial career.

Voluntary arbitration

When disputing parties both agree to submit an issue to arbitration. See arbitration.

Voluntary redundancy

When an organisation intends to layoff workers it can ask whether any employees are interested in resigning voluntarily and taking a lump-sum payment.


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Payment for work or services, by the week, day or by the individual job performed. See salary.

Wage fixation

When industrial tribunals establish appropriate wage levels for workers, rather than letting workers and their employer work it out themselves through enterprise bargaining. Also known as centralised wage fixation.

Wage indexations

A system of national wage adjustments based on movements of the consumer price index. See CPI.

Weekend penalty rate

A higher rate of pay which employees sometimes receive for working on weekends.


Workplace English Language and Literacy programs help workers develop the English language skills necessary for their job. It also helps workers who speak English as a second language to participate more fully in their workplace.

White collar workers

A worker employed to do non-manual work, such as a professional, administrative, technical or clerical position and who is paid a salary rather than a wage. This term originates from the time where men were the traditional holders of such positions and wore a suit, white shirt and tie to work.

Work placement

On-the-job experience as part of a dual-recognition vocational certificate. The aim of a work placement is to develop skills on-the-job or complete tasks which demonstrate competency.

Work practices

Any informal practice or custom which governs or influences the way employees behave at work.

Work to rule

A conscious reduction of output by workers, by painstaking interpretation of rules such as an industrial embargo. For example, teachers may refuse to attend meetings after school hours. Also known as a go-slow.

Workers compensation

A payment from an employer to an employee for injuries of illness caused at work. Workers compensation is compulsory for all employers in Australia.


The entire population available for work, either employed or unemployed.

Working conditions

The physical environment in which you work, including the actual space, the quality of ventilation, heat, light and degree of safety.


Any place where people are employed or working.

Wrongful dismissal

When an employee is dismissed in violation of their contract, award or the law. A wrongfully dismissed employee has the right to seek compensation for lost earnings, and can take their claim to an industrial tribunal.