The Difference Between Registered Agreements, Enterprise Agreements, Awards and Employment Contracts

When it comes to Employment Law, a workplace can be covered by registered agreements, enterprise agreements, awards and employment contracts. They all have different purposes and it’s important to understand the difference between them.

What is a registered agreement?

A registered agreement is a document between an employer and their employees regarding employment conditions. An agreement must be approved by and registered with the Fair Work Commission. Examples of registered agreements include enterprise agreements, collective agreements, greenfields agreements, certified agreements, Australian workplace agreements (AWA) and individual transitional employment agreements (ITEA).

What is an enterprise agreement?

An enterprise agreement is between one or more national system employers and their employees, as specified in the agreement.

Enterprise agreements are negotiated by the parties through collective bargaining in good faith, primarily at the enterprise level. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, an enterprise can mean any kind of business, activity, project or undertaking.

As per the Fair Work Act, the following new enterprise agreements can be made:

Single-enterprise agreement

An employer, or two or more employers that are single interest employers, may make an enterprise agreement with the employees who are employed at the time the agreement is made and who will be covered by the agreement.

Single interest employers

Two or more employers are single interest employers if the employers are:

  • engaged in a joint venture or common enterprise, or

  • related bodies corporate, or

  • specified in a single interest employer authorisation that is in operation in relation to the proposed enterprise agreement concerned.

Multi-enterprise agreement

Two or more employers that are not single interest employers may make an enterprise agreement with the employees who are employed at the time the agreement is made and who will be covered by the agreement.

A special stream of bargaining for multi-enterprise agreements is available to enable low-paid employees who have not historically participated in enterprise-level collective bargaining to make a multi-enterprise agreement. The Fair Work Commission can make low paid authorisations that allow access to this stream.

*Check out this reference page here for more information on the difference between Single Enterprise Agreements and Multi-Enterprise Agreements

Greenfields agreement

greenfields agreement is an enterprise agreement relating to a genuine new enterprise (including a new business, activity, project or undertaking) which is made at a time when the employer or employers have not yet employed any of the persons who will be necessary for the normal conduct of the enterprise and who will be covered by the agreement.

When referring to a location, greenfields relates to a location for a business where there has not previously been any building, or relating to any enterprise which is becoming active in a market where there has been little or no previous activity.

What are awards?

Awards (modern awards) are legal documents that outline the minimum pay rates and conditions of employment.

There are more than 100 industry or occupation awards that cover most people who work in Australia and it’s possible for an employer to be covered by more than one award depending on the jobs their employees do.

Awards apply to employers and employees depending on the industry they work in and the type of job worked. Every award has information about who it covers.

Remember – awards don’t apply when an employer has a registered agreement in place.

For more information on awards, head here.

What is an employment contract?

An employment contract is an agreement between an employer and employee that sets out terms and conditions of employment. A contract can be in writing or verbal.

An employment contract cannot provide for less than the legal minimum set out in The National Employment Standards (NES), Awards, enterprise agreements or other registered agreements that may apply.

All employees are covered by the NES, regardless of whether they’ve signed a contract. A contract can’t make employees worse off than their minimum legal entitlements.

For more information on employment contracts, head here.

The National Employment Standards (NES)

The National Employment Standards (NES) are the 10 minimum standards of employment. The national minimum wage and the NES make up the minimum entitlements for employees in Australia. ⠀

An award, employment contract, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement can’t provide for conditions that are less than the national minimum wage or the NES. They can’t exclude the NES.⠀

The NES cover the following:⠀

  • Maximum weekly hours of work ⠀

  • Requests for flexible working arrangements ⠀

  • Parental leave and related entitlements ⠀

  • Annual leave ⠀

  • Personal/carer’s leave, compassionate leave, and family and domestic violence leave ⠀

  • Community service leave ⠀

  • Long service leave ⠀

  • Public holidays ⠀

  • Notice of termination and redundancy pay ⠀

  • Provision of a Fair Work Information Statement ⠀

⠀For more information on the NES, head to the FairWork website here.⠀

At Litton Legal, we’re experts when it comes to Employment Law. If you need assistance with any Employment Law contract matters, contact our friendly team on