Past Research Projects

New initiatives in enforcing employment standards

Project summary

The well-being of more than nine million Australian employees is underpinned by statutory workplace entitlements. For the large majority of these employees, these are set by federal legislation. The statutory entitlements are meaningful only in so far as they are complied with, and improving the effectiveness of the federal enforcement agency, the Fair Work Ombudsman, is therefore of crucial public importance. This project provides the first comprehensive scholarly evaluation of the Fair Work Ombudsman whose office is responsible for the enforcement of working conditions relating to pay, reasonable working hours and leave, amongst other regulatory functions. The findings of this project identify multiple ways in which enforcement practices can be improved, not only for the Fair Work Ombudsman, but also comparable compliance agencies domestically and overseas.

Partner organisation

Fair Work Ombudsman

Chief investigators

The Research Fellow for this project is Dr Tess Hardy

Aims of the project

This project examines the compliance and enforcement functions of the federal government agency responsible for ensuring compliance with, and enforcement of, minimum employment conditions. More than nine million Australians have their entitlements to pay, leave and working hours underpinned by mandated employment standards set by either statutory minima or modern awards. Under this regulatory regime, the Fair Work Ombudsman is the government agency that is primarily responsible for securing compliance with these rights and standards. While some form of federal government agency has existed in this space since the 1930s, the Fair Work Ombudsman is a radically transformed version of its predecessors. It is therefore of significant interest.

This project is assessing the Fair Work Ombudsman by:

  • investigating its operation through documentary analysis, participant observation and qualitative interviewing;
  • considering the agency in light of the regulatory  theory, and specifically, studies of analogous organisations in Australia, the United States, France, China and Brazil, amongst others; and
  • examining employer and business responses to the activities and interventions of the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Click here for more information on this project and its associated publications.

Governance and performance

Governing markets

This theme addresses three key questions:

  • How do governments, governing institutions and private actors relate to each other, and what can and should be the roles of these actors in the governance of different markets?
  • What policy instruments are available to govern the different sites and spaces of market activity (formal, informal, visible and invisible), from global to local?
  • What is the efficacy and impact of these policy instruments, and how can they be measured and compared?

Learn more about governing markets

Research Projects: