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What are industrial instruments?

What are industrial instruments?

What is an industrial instrument?

What are industrial instruments?

ANMF articles often refer to an ‘industrial instrument’, which is a catch-all phrase that encompasses any legally enforceable document that applies to employees.  Most commonly these are awards and enterprise agreements, but can also include state and federal legislation. Therefore as an employee it is important that you understand the industrial instruments that cover your employment.

National Employment Standards

The National Employment Standards (NES) are 10 minimum employment entitlements that have to be provided to all employees.  The NES is made by the Federal Government. These NES requirements override anything in an award or enterprise agreement that provides a lesser entitlement.

The minimum entitlements of the NES are:

  • maximum weekly hours
  • requests for flexible working arrangements
  • parental leave and related entitlements
  • annual leave
  • personal leave and compassionate leave
  • community service leave
  • long service leave
  • public holidays
  • notice of termination and redundancy pay.

For more information about the National Employment Standards visit


Unless you are covered by an enterprise agreement, your minimum wages and conditions are set out in the NES and in a modern award. The award that applies depends on your occupation (in the case of nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing) or the industry, in the case of others.

The most common modern awards in health and aged care for our members are the Nurses Award 2010 and the Aged Care Award 2010. Awards are made by the Fair Work Commission.

What is an enterprise agreement?

Enterprise agreements are typically negotiated between the ANMF and your employer, and usually set out a much broader and more beneficial suite of terms of employment.

When a workplace has an enterprise agreement, the award doesn’t apply. However the enterprise agreement cannot be contrary to the NES, and you must be ‘better off overall’ than you would have been under the modern award. The Fair Work Commission is obliged to test the agreement against the award before approving it, by applying the ‘better off overall test’.

Enterprise agreements typically run for three to four years and continue to apply until they are terminated or replaced.

The Fair Work Act 2009 establishes a set of clear rules and obligations about how the bargaining process is to occur, including rules about industrial action, the content of enterprise agreements, and how an agreement is made and approved.

For details pertaining to the enterprise bargaining process see the enterprise bargaining  ‘Rights & obligations’ fact sheet at the Fair Work Ombudsman website.