Employment law is concerned with the relations between workers and their employers on matters ranging from wages and compensation, through to harassment and discrimination based on gender, disability, or age. Employment law often involves collective bargaining, unions and industrial relations. Attorneys in this field may represent individual clients, a union, a government regulatory agency, or an employer. Employment law requires you to master a blend of common law and domestic and statutory legislation.
In Australia, the Fair Work Act of 2009 provides the regulations governing Australian workplaces and employers. Australia has a minimum wage, and the Fair Work Commission works to ensure that the requirements of current industrial relations law are met. In this capacity, it performs a range of functions, from reviewing minimum wage laws each year, to mediating workplace disputes. There are also various unions in Australia, representing various sectors and profession. While membership had declined over recent years, unions still play a large role in negotiating different aspects of employment law and its implementation.
In employment litigation, firms are hired to defend employers in single-plaintiff lawsuits, as well as in large, sometimes geographically dispersed, collective (or class action) suits that concern issues such as discrimination, employee benefits, and wage and hour classes.
You may also find yourself tasked with providing subject-matter counseling to solve workplace challenges that cover the full range of labor and employment issues. These include hiring, testing, and compliance, workforce reductions, state leave management, wage and hour exempt status, independent contractor and pay practices audits, eDiscovery systems and processes, and anti-harassment and other employment law training.
Alternatively, your team may focus on more traditional labor matters, such as business immigration, compliance and reviews, affirmative action, pay equity and diversity, legislative and regulatory assistance, and international labor and employment matters.
While the complexity of employment law may be appealing for some, others may find it frustrating. Employment regulations are liable to change frequently as clients renegotiate contracts, take industrial action or find themselves affected by new pieces of legislation. You’ll have to be ready to learn constantly and provide your clients with up-to-date and well-informed counsel.
Employment lawyers are used across all areas of the legal industry. Whether it be in a commercial or private law firm, or in-house for a specific organisation, employment lawyers provide critical support whenever questions of correct industrial relations emerge.
For these reasons, employment law is a highly recession-proof area of the law. During times of economic growth, organisations are likely to require legal advice as they hire new recruits, negotiate contracts and consider expansion. During recessions, organisations tend to downsize, a process that often involves extensive legal consultation.
Learn more about working in employment law.