Variation of Employment Contract Australia

Variation of Employment Contract in Australia: What You Need to Know

Employment contracts are a crucial element in any employer-employee relationship. They set out the terms and conditions of employment, including the employee’s rights, responsibilities, and obligations. However, over time, the terms of the employment contract may need to be modified to reflect changes in the workplace or the employee’s circumstances. This is where variations to employment contracts come into play.

In Australia, the process for varying an employment contract is governed by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The Act lays out specific procedural requirements that must be followed for any variation to be legally binding. It is important for employers to understand these requirements to ensure they are complying with the law.

What is a variation of employment contract?

A variation of an employment contract occurs when one or more of the terms and conditions of the contract are changed. This can include changes to the employee`s duties, hours of work, pay, location, or any other aspect of their employment. Variations can be initiated by either the employer or employee, but both parties must agree to the proposed changes.

How can an employment contract be varied?

Employment contracts can be varied in a number of ways, including:

1. Mutual agreement: The most common way to vary an employment contract is by mutual agreement between the employer and employee. This agreement can be reached through negotiation or mediation, and the changes should be documented in writing.

2. Legislative changes: In some cases, legislative changes may impact the employment contract, such as changes to minimum wage rates or working conditions. Employers must ensure they comply with any new legislation and reflect these changes in their contracts.

3. Termination and rehire: In some situations, an employer may terminate an existing contract and then rehire the employee under a new contract with different terms and conditions. This approach requires careful consideration, as it may be considered unfair dismissal if it is not handled appropriately.

What are the procedural requirements for varying an employment contract?

Under the Fair Work Act, an employer must follow specific procedural requirements to ensure that the variation to the employment contract is legally binding. These requirements include:

1. Giving notice: The employer must provide the employee with written notice of any proposed changes, including the nature of the changes and the intended date they will take effect.

2. Consultation: The employer must consult with the employee about the proposed changes and consider any feedback provided.

3. Agreement: Both parties must agree to the proposed changes, and this must be documented in writing.

4. Record-keeping: Employers must keep records of any variations to employment contracts, including the date of the variation and the agreed terms and conditions.

What are the consequences of failing to follow the procedural requirements?

Failing to follow the procedural requirements for varying an employment contract can have serious consequences for employers. If an employer fails to follow the correct process, the variation may be considered invalid, and the terms of the original contract will remain in effect. This can lead to disputes and potentially costly legal action.

In addition, if an employer is found to have breached the Fair Work Act by failing to follow the procedural requirements, they may be liable for penalties, including fines and compensation to the employee.


Variation of employment contracts is a necessary part of managing employment relationships. However, it is important for employers to follow the procedural requirements outlined in the Fair Work Act to ensure that any changes are legally binding. Employers should consult with legal experts to ensure that they are complying with their obligations under the Act and avoiding any unnecessary legal disputes.