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Whats New

 

2011 Annual wage review

 

Information on the 2011 wage review and the increase to the minimum wage can be found by clicking here

 

 

1st January 2010

 

From 1 January 2010 there are several important changes in Australia’s workplace laws that affect all employers and employees in the national workplace relations system.

The changes include the introduction of new National Employment Standards (NES), many employers in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia moving into the national system, and the commencement of modern awards.

Employers and employees need to be prepared for these changes.

National Employment Standards (NES)

The Fair Work Act provides a safety net of enforceable minimum employment terms and conditions through the National Employment Standards (NES).

The NES sets out 10 minimum workplace entitlements which apply to all employers and employees in the national workplace relations system from 1 January 2010 (however only certain entitlements apply to casual employees).

The NES replaces the non-pay rate provisions of the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard (the Standard), which applies up to and including 31 December 2009.

Fair Work Information Statement

From 1 January 2010, all employers covered by the national workplace relations system have an obligation to give each new employee a Fair Work Information Statement (the Statement) before, or as soon as possible after, the employee starts employment.

 

 

Sole traders, partnerships & others moving into the national system

From 1 January 2010, sole traders, partnerships, other unincorporated entities and non-trading corporations in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are covered by the national system rather than their own specific state system. Employers that were already operating under the national system continue to be covered (eg. Pty Ltd businesses, employers in the ACT, NT and Victoria).

There are special transitional rules for employers in these states to help them move into the national system,including:

  • State awards that covered these employers and employees before 1 January 2010 continue to apply and are known as Division 2B State awards. They automatically terminate at the end of 31 December 2010 (except for State enterprise awards). These employers and employees are then covered by a relevant modern award.
  • State employment agreements that covered these employers and employees continue to operate until terminated or replaced and are known as Division 2B State employment agreements

 

However, state awards and state employment agreements operate alongside the National Employment Standards (NES). This means that, employees must receive at least the minimum entitlements in the NES (to the extent that they apply), along with any other entitlements in their state award or workplace agreement (provided that these are at least as beneficial as the corresponding NES entitlement(s)).

 

Modern awards

From 1 January 2010 modern awards replace existing awards in most industries.

Modern awards are industry or occupation-based enforceable minimum employment standards which apply in addition to the NES.

Modern awards cover all employers and employees who perform work in those industries or occupations covered by a particular modern award. However, modern awards may not apply to some managers or higher income employees (who have an appropriate guarantee of annual earnings of more than $108,300 annually) even if a modern award covers the industry in which they work.

Modern awards contain terms and conditions about:

  • minimum wages
  • overtime and penalty rates
  • types of employment
  • work arrangements (eg. rosters, variation to working hours)
  • hours of work
  • rest breaks
  • classifications
  • allowances
  • leave and leave loadings
  • superannuation
  • procedures for consultation, representation and dispute settlement.

Some modern awards also contain terms about redundancy.

Transition to modern awards

Modern awards were created to establish one set of minimum conditions for employers and employees across Australia who work in the same industries and occupations.

As the modern awards replace thousands of federal and state-based awards, the impact of the wages and conditions in the modern awards vary between states, industries and employers.

To lessen the financial impact of the new arrangements, modern awards may contain transitional provisions which allow increases and decreases in minimum conditions to be progressively phased in.

Modern awards may contain:

  • a model phasing schedule
  • transitional provisions specific to the modern award
  • no transitional arrangements at all.

In modern awards containing the model phasing schedule, new rates of pay will not come into force until 1 July 2010 and may be phased in over 5 annual instalments.

If there are no transitional provisions in a modern award, then the wages specified in a modern award need to be paid from 1 January 2010.

 

Parental Leave and You.

Parental leave: Employees are entitled to 12 months' unpaid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child aged up to 16 years. A new parent can request an extension to 24 months' unpaid leave, reduced by the amount of leave taken by their partner. Employers may refuse the request, but only on reasonable business grounds.

Employees of some small businesses (sole traders or partnerships) ''in the middle'' of parental leave on January 1 are entitled to continue their leave under the new rules.

Former provisions: new mothers or fathers could take up to 52 weeks' continuous unpaid leave as the primary carer.

Same-sex relationships were not recognised for parental leave. Parental leave for adoption was restricted to children under five.

Return-to-work guarantee: A new parent is entitled to return to the same position they held before taking parental leave. If the position no longer exists, they must return to a position that is nearest in status and pay.

Flexible hours: Parents of children under school age or children under 18 with a disability can request flexible work arrangements including changes to hours, patterns (job-sharing) or location. Employees must have worked for 12 months. Employers must respond in 21 days in writing and can refuse only on reasonable business grounds. The Fair Work Australia tribunal can mediate in any disputes on the issue.

Formerly: employees had no right to request flexible hours.

Community service leave: Unlimited unpaid leave for voluntary emergency activities and up to 10 days' paid jury leave.

Formerly: no entitlement.

Compassionate leave: 10 days' paid carers' leave for every year of service, which accumulates.

Formerly: casuals not covered. Annual limit of 10 days' paid carers' leave.

Information statement: All new employees must be given a Fair Work Information Statement as soon as they start work.

&Termination: Employees should be given four weeks' notice of termination and up to 16 weeks' redundancy pay, based on length of service.

Source: Fair Work Online

 

16 December 2009

Danny Cloghan, whose prior roles include being chief of staff to former health minister and attornery general Jim McGinty, is among six new appointments to Fair Work Australia.

Minister for Workplace Relations Julia Gillard announced the appointments this week.

Under the federal government's new workplace relations system, Fair Work Australia commissioners are appointed to be "independent umpires".

Ms Gillard said the newly appointed commissioners are "fair-minded and capable professionals from varied backgrounds".

However, five of the six new commissioners come from a union background, with only one having experince with an employer group.

The new commissioners are: Peter Hampton, Danny Cloghan, Anne Gooley, John Ryan, Michelle Bissett and Julius Roe.

Mr Cloghan is currently acting executive director, Finance and Corporate Division, WA Department of Health. He has almost 30 years involvement in workplace relations matters, including in the union movement.

Mr Cloghan is currently also a Director, Community CPS Credit Union. He holds a Master of Industrial Relations and Bachelor of Arts degree.

 

16 July 2009

 

Termination of employment

New remuneration and compensation limits took effect for termination of employment applications from 1 July 2009. The following now apply:

  • A high income threshold remuneration limit (indexed from $106,400)—from 1 July 2009, an employee not employed under award conditions whose remuneration exceeds $108,300 per year is excluded from making application.
  • Compensation limit (indexed from $53,200)—from 1 July 2009, the limit of compensation that may be awarded in lieu of reinstatement in unfair dismissal applications made under the Fair Work Act 2009 is $54,150. For applications made under the Workplace Relations Act 1996—from 1 July 2009 is $55,700.
  • Application fee—from 1 July 2009, the new application fee for termination of employment applications is $59.50.

 

 

 

1st July 2009

 

Fair Work Australia Begins

 

Fair Work Australia Inaugural Sitting

 

The inaugural sitting of Fair Work Australia will be at 9.00 am on Wednesday, 1 July 2009 at 80 William Street, Sydney.

Click here to watch it live.

 

Small businesses are no longer exempt from unfair dismissal laws as the 2009-10 financial year ushers in a new industrial relations system.

From today, the Federal Government's new Fair Work regulations will replace a raft of the Howard government's WorkChoices laws.

No business, regardless of its size, will be exempt from unfair dismissal provisions.

Under the new provisions, there will be greater powers for the new industrial relations umpire to enforce good-faith bargaining.

Other changes include new standards for collective bargaining and the restoration of some safety net conditions.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesman David Gregory says one of the biggest changes is to the unfair dismissal laws.

"The exemption that has been in place for businesses with 100 employees or less for the past three years comes to an end," he said.

Mr Gregory says it is difficult for small businesses to keep up with all the changes.

"We've seen the industrial relations pendulum now really swing back and forward several times over the past decade and it does make it difficult for businesses to keep up," he said.

"But that's not an excuse. These are new legal obligations. Businesses do need to understand what they are all about.

"They do need to be complying with the changes to these laws."

Australian Industry Group spokesman Stephen Smith says the workplace relations balance has shifted.

"The rights of unions and the power of unions is being increased somewhat," he said.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Sharan Burrow says the new measures are what Australians voted for at the last federal election.

Ms Burrow says WorkChoices is finally dead and buried.

"It'll certainly be a celebration, but it's a day of course when unions get back to business," she said.

"We have fundamental rights back in place. WorkChoices is off the agenda and people can go to work today knowing that they can't be sacked unfairly.

"The unfair dismissal rights are back in place."

courtesy of ABC news

 

Media Statement - 30th June 2009



The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, has today announced that funding offers have been made under the Fair Work Education and Information program.


As promised at the last election, the Government is facilitating a targeted education and information program to ensure employees, employers and small businesses understand the new workplace relations system.

Following a competitive selection exercise conducted by an independent panel, 19 community, employee, employer and small business organisations have been offered a total of $12.9m in Fair Work Education and Information Program grants. A list of the successful applicants is attached.

The bodies have been selected based on the ability to meet the requirements of the program as set out in the 'Fair Work Education and Information Program Guidelines for Applicants'. The Guidelines are available online at www.deewr.gov.au/newwrlaws

Grant recipients will provide information and education services to employees, employers and small business operators about the Fair Work Act and how it will affect them.

A key focus of this phase of the program is to ensure employers, particularly small businesses, learn about the new system and comply with it, including new aspects such as the Fair Dismissal Code for Small Business.

It is proposed that a further round of the program be implemented in coming months with a specific focus on employees. It will cover the provision of information to employees about the new safety net (the 10 National Employment Standards and modern awards).

This round will be implemented in the lead up to the commencement of the new safety net on 1 January 2010.

Information and education services to be provided by the current grant recipients will include interactive online material in multiple languages; workshops; and a broad range of information materials. Details of the scheduled and publicly accessible workshops will be made available at www.fairwork.gov.au

The Rudd Government understands that with any change of the scale associated with the Fair Work Act, there is a need for clear and reliable information so that small businesses, employers and employees are able to understand the changes to ensure minimal disruption.

From 1 July 2009, www.fairwork.gov.au and Fair Work Infoline 131 394 will provide a 'one stop shop' for education, information and advice on all aspects of the new workplace relations system.

This replaces an alphabet soup of agencies which were almost impossible for organisations and individuals to navigate through.

These changes are the changes put to the Australian people at the last election and follow an unprecedented level of consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

In the meantime, more information on the changes to the workplace relations system, including on Fair Work Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman, is available at www.deewr.gov.au/newwrlaws

Organisations offered grants under the Fair Work Education and Information Program

Organisation

Funding Offer

ACT Chamber of Commerce

$156 600

Aged and Community Services Australia

$208 800

Australian Mines and Metals Association

$435 000

Australian Chamber Alliance

$2 548 000

Australian Council of Trade Unions

$ 2 549 023

Australian Hotels Association

$234 900

Australian Human Resources Institute

$309 400

Australian Industry Group

$1 911 000

Australian Retailers Association

$400 200

Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation

$217 500

Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia

$2 220 000

Job Watch

$364 800

Master Builders Association

$282 100

Master Grocers Association

$151 647

National Farmers' Federation

$348 000

National Retail Association

$217 500

Recruitment and Consulting Services Association Ltd

$136 500

Restaurant and Catering Australia

$130 500

Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce

$69 600

TOTAL

$12 893 070

 

 

 

28th Feb 2009

FAIR WORK BILL 2008
SECOND READING SPEECH
THE HON JULIA GILLARD MP
MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS

I rise today one year on from the election of the Rudd Labor Government to deliver on a promise Labor made to the Australian people. Today we deliver the creation of a new workplace relations system, one that allows Australia to grasp the promise of the future without forgetting the values that made us who and what we are.

Over a century ago at Federation, Australians decided that we would be different to other nations. Democratic, yes. With parliamentary institutions, judicial independence and individual rights similar to those of other great democracies like the United Kingdom and the United States of America, but without their wide social inequalities.

And our Australian version of fairness began with industrial relations:

  • with the concept of the living wage, determined first in the Harvester Judgement;
  • with the idea that people's democratic rights don't cease when they step onto the factory, shop or office floor;
  • with recognition of the need for time for family, relaxation and community; and
  • with an end to divisive industrial conflict.

Before the November 2007 election, this set of values - which instill the essence of the Australian genius for fairness and enterprise - was attacked by the values contained in Work Choices.

The philosophy that underpinned Work Choices said, essentially: make your own way in the world; without the comfort of mateship; without the protections afforded by a compassionate society; against odds deliberately stacked against you. No safety net. No rights at work. No cooperation in the workplace to take the nation forward.

More than anything else, the 2007 election was a contest between these two visions of what Australia should be. And in November 2007, the Australian people settled the matter for once and for all. They chose to be true to the Australian ideal of a fair go. Their decision cost a Prime Minister not only his Government but his seat in this House.

They chose to reject Work Choices and all it stood for, and to put in its place the promises Labor made in its policy statement Forward with Fairness. They gave the Rudd Government the strongest possible popular mandate for the introduction of this Bill.

One year on from our election, the Rudd Government now delivers in full on those promises.

The Bill being introduced today is based on the enduring principle of fairness while meeting the needs of the modern age. It balances the interests of employers and employees and balances the granting of rights with the imposition of responsibilities. The Bill delivers:

  • a fair and comprehensive safety net of minimum employment conditions that cannot be stripped away;
  • a system that has at its heart bargaining in good faith at the enterprise level, as this essential to maximise workplace cooperation, improve economic productivity and create rising national prosperity;
  • protections from unfair dismissal for all employees;
  • protection and hope for a better future for the low-paid;
  • a balance between work and family life; and
  • the right to be represented in the workplace.

These rights are guaranteed by the legislation and overseen by a new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, that will operate with independence and balance.

Reflecting the Government's commitment to co-operative workplace relations, this Bill is the product of an unprecedented degree of consultation with employer and employee representatives and State and Territory governments.

One century on from Federation, and one year on from the election of the Rudd Labor Government, this Bill takes the Australian value of the fair go and builds around it a new workplace relations system ready to meet the needs of the nation in the 21st Century.

It's a good Bill for employees, for employers, for families and for the economy.

Only a Labor Government could have introduced this Bill because only Labor believes that the ideal of fairness should lie at the centre of our national life.

This Bill is simpler and shorter than Work Choices. It is easier to read and apply and is set out in six easy to follow parts.

OBJECTS OF THE BILL
The principal object of the Bill recognises the Government's intention to provide a balanced framework for cooperative and productive workplace relations that promotes national economic prosperity and social inclusion for all Australians.

This Bill guarantees a safety net of fair, relevant, and enforceable minimum terms and conditions for Australian workers that can no longer be undermined by the making of statutory individual employment agreements of any kind, given such agreements can never be part of a fair workplace relations system.

The Bill aims to achieve productivity and fairness through enterprise-level collective bargaining underpinned by the guaranteed safety net, simple good faith bargaining obligations and clear rules governing industrial action.

This Bill seeks to assist employees to balance their work and family responsibilities by providing for flexible arrangements.

The Bill ensures freedom of association and recognises that employees have the right to be represented at work by a union. The Bill contains protections against discrimination.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT
The safety net
The Bill provides for a comprehensive safety net of minimum wages and employment conditions that cannot be stripped away. The safety net is in two parts.

The National Employment Standards comprise the ten legislated employment conditions covering essential conditions such as weekly hours of work, leave, public holidays, notice and redundancy pay and the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Modern awards are currently being developed by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

Modern awards will build on the National Employment Standards and will cover a further ten subject areas, including: minimum wages, arrangements for when work is performed, overtime and penalty rates, allowances, leave and leave loadings, superannuation and procedures for consultation, dispute resolution and the representation of employees.

Individual flexibility arrangements
The Bill provides that each modern award must include a flexibility term to enable employers and employees to negotiate an individual flexibility arrangement to meet their needs that may vary the application of specified award terms. The Bill provides strict protections to ensure that any such individual agreement is entirely voluntary and that an employee cannot be disadvantaged.

Modern awards and employees on high incomes
The Government recognises that awards have less relevance to employees earning high incomes. Under the Bill, an employer and an employee who is guaranteed to earn more than $100,000 indexed may enter a written guarantee that results in a modern award not applying. The Bill includes a number of important protections to ensure employees enter such an arrangement voluntarily.

Reviewing modern awards
The Bill requires Fair Work Australia to undertake four-yearly reviews of modern awards to ensure that they maintain a relevant and fair minimum safety net and continue to be relevant to the needs and expectations of the community.

The Bill allows adjustments to modern awards between the four-yearly reviews in limited circumstances, such as to deal with changes in the work value of classifications or to deal with pressing new circumstances affecting a particular award.

Minimum wages
The Bill provides for minimum wages in modern awards to be reviewed every year by a specialist Minimum Wage Panel within Fair Work Australia. The minimum wages in modern awards will override any lower rates in an enterprise agreement made under the Bill.

The Bill also requires Fair Work Australia to make a national minimum wage order to provide minimum wages for all award free employees.

Special provisions for outworkers
The Government is aware that outworkers are an acutely at-risk sector of the Australian workforce and require special protections, so the Bill ensures that awards may include special provisions dealing with outworkers. I also flag the Government's intention to carefully examine the provisions of the Bill concerning right of entry to investigate breaches of entitlements to ensure the Bill provides an effective compliance regime for at-risk workers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry. The Government will seek necessary refinements to the Bill concerning this matter through the Senate processes.

Equal remuneration
The Bill strengthens the equal remuneration provisions to include the principle of equal remuneration for work of comparable value.

Transfer of business
The Bill provides for a simpler and fairer scheme to deal with the transfer of employment rights and obligations if there is a ‘transfer of business' and a new employer takes on employees of the old employer.

ENTERPRISE AGREEMENTS
The Bill provides a new framework for enterprise bargaining which does not use any concept of union or non-union agreements. Instead, an agreement is made when approved by a valid majority of the employees to whom it will apply. A union that acted as a bargaining representative during the negotiations may apply to be covered by the agreement.

This new framework is premised on good faith bargaining and recognises that most workplaces already bargain in good faith without any intervention. However, where this does not happen, the Bill empowers Fair Work Australia to make orders to ensure compliance with the good faith bargaining requirements.

Bargaining for single interest employers
The principle category of bargaining is for single interest employers at the level of the enterprise. Single interest employers include joint ventures, common enterprises, related bodies corporate and employers specified in a single interest employer authorisation or declaration. A single interest employer authorisation or declaration can be made to bring certain very limited types of employers with a strong commonality of interest (such as franchisees of the same franchisor, or employers who receive substantial public funding) into this stream, but only where those employers seek to be allowed to bargain together.

In the single interest bargaining stream, employees have the right to take protected industrial action. Employees may only take protected industrial action where they are genuinely trying to make agreements at the enterprise level. Pattern bargaining is not permitted.

Fair Work Australia is empowered to make certain kinds of orders as part of its oversight of the bargaining process.

Majority Support Orders
Firstly, the Bill provides that where an employer refuses to bargain with its employees, an employee bargaining representative can ask Fair Work Australia to determine if there is majority employee support for negotiating an enterprise agreement. If so, the employer will be required to bargain collectively with its employees in good faith.

Scope orders
Secondly, the Bill provides that Fair Work Australia may make a scope order if it is satisfied that bargaining for a proposed enterprise agreement is not proceeding efficiently or fairly because the group of employees to whom a proposed agreement will apply has not been fairly chosen.

Good faith bargaining orders
Thirdly, the Bill sets out good faith bargaining requirements that a bargaining representative for a proposed enterprise agreement must meet, including: attending, and participating in, meetings at reasonable times; disclosing relevant information; responding to proposals; giving genuine consideration to the proposals of others and giving reasons for responses to those proposals; and refraining from capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.

The Bill specifies that the good faith bargaining requirements do not require a bargaining representative to make concessions during bargaining or to reach agreement on the terms that are to be included in the agreement. Parties are entitled to take a tough stance in negotiations.

In the very unusual case where a negotiating party completely ignores good faith bargaining orders, the other party may apply to Fair Work Australia to intervene and to make a workplace determination. This will ensure there is no advantage to be gained by flouting the law.

Multi – employer bargaining
The Bill provides that where employees and employers genuinely wish to bargain on a multi-employer basis they will be free to do so. Protected industrial action and good faith bargaining orders are not available in these circumstances.

The Bill provides it is unlawful to coerce an employer to make a multi-employer agreement or to discriminate against the employer if they have not made a multi­employer agreement.

Bargaining for the low paid
The Bill provides a new scheme of bargaining for low paid employees. There is significant evidence that enterprise bargaining benefits employees, employers and the economy and we want more Australians to benefit from it. Currently, many employees in industries like child care, community work, security and cleaning struggle to bargain effectively with their employers. To facilitate the entry of these types of employees and their employers into enterprise bargaining, the Bill provides for a special low-paid bargaining stream.

Protected industrial action is not available, but Fair Work Australia will have the obligation to facilitate the making of agreements and will play a hands-on role to get the parties bargaining. For example, Fair Work Australia may convene and chair conferences, help to identify productivity improvements to underpin an agreement and generally guide the parties through the negotiating process.

The Bill provides for the possibility of a workplace determination in the low­paid stream in two circumstances – by agreement or if there is no reasonable prospect of an agreement being made. In the latter case, access to a workplace determination is subject to strict criteria, including that there is no enterprise agreement in place and that the employment conditions of the employees are substantially those set out in the safety net. When making a determination, Fair Work Australia must consider how productivity in the business may be improved and the need to maintain the competitiveness of the employer.

Representation in bargaining
The Bill provides that employees are entitled to have their union represent them in bargaining or appoint another person, such as a colleague. Employers may also appoint a bargaining representative.

The Bill also requires employers to give written notice to all employees of their right to be represented in the bargaining when the employer initiates bargaining or if a majority support determination, low paid authorisation or a scope order is made.

Agreement content
The Bill provides that all matters pertaining to the relationship between the employer and its employees, as well as to the relationship between the employer and a union representing those employees will be the subject of bargaining.

Agreements can also deal with the deduction of wages for any purpose authorised by the employee and contain terms dealing with how the agreement will operate. This means salary-sacrifice and pay-roll deduction arrangements and terms setting out how the parties agree to conduct negotiations for a replacement agreement can now be included in agreements.

The Bill provides that only terms that are about the relationship between the employer and the employee will be able to be the subject of protected industrial action. For example, employees will not be permitted to take protected industrial action in pursuit of a claim that the employer should make a donation to a charity or should start to manufacture a particular product.

Required agreement content
The Bill provides that in order to be approved by Fair Work Australia, an enterprise agreement must contain:

a flexibility term that allows individual flexibility arrangements, subject to specified protections;
a dispute settlement process that must involve either Fair Work Australia or another person or body independent of the parties and that provides for the representation of employees in the process; and
a term providing for consultation with employees about major workplace changes and that provides for the representation of employees in that process.

Approval of Agreements
The Bill provides that Fair Work Australia must not approve an agreement that includes terms that are inconsistent with unfair dismissal, right of entry, National Employment Standards and the general protection provisions of the Act. Fair Work Australia must also be satisfied that:

the employer and a valid majority of the employees to whom the agreement will apply genuinely agree to the agreement; and
each employee would be better off overall under the agreement in comparison to the relevant modern award.

Workplace determinations
There are times when, despite their best efforts, parties cannot reach agreement. To assist the parties, the Bill enables Fair Work Australia to exercise broad conciliation powers at the request of one of the parties.

Provided the parties have bargained in good faith, the Bill provides that they will be able to walk away without having a settlement imposed on them.

Where the parties agree, the Bill provides that Fair Work Australia may also make a binding determination on matters in dispute.

In those limited circumstances where protected industrial action is occurring in a bargaining context that has a particularly negative or dangerous impact, the Bill provides scope for Fair Work Australia to resolve the dispute by making a workplace determination.

Firstly, the Bill incorporates the long standing capacity for a workplace determination to be made where industrial action in threatening (or would threaten) to endanger the life, personal safety or health or welfare of the population or part of it or to cause significant damage to the economy.

Second, a new ground in the Bill for the making of a workplace determination is where protracted industrial action is causing significant economic harm to the bargaining participants, or such harm is imminent. This provision is intended to apply only to the very small number of disputes where industrial action continues for an extended period, where the employees and the employer suffer greatly and yet the parties are so entrenched in their positions that there is no prospect of a breakthrough in negotiations.

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
General protections
The Bill incorporates the current provisions relating to freedom of association, unlawful termination and other miscellaneous protections into a streamlined and easy to follow Part titled General Protections. In doing so, the Bill provides more comprehensive protections for workers in some situations.

The Bill's general protections ensure that employees remain free to choose to be represented by a union, provide more comprehensive protections for those participating in collective activities (such as representing other employees or bargaining). The Bill provides sanctions where a person takes adverse action because someone exercises one of those rights.

The Bill will protect individuals who are subject to adverse treatment because they have or seek to exercise a ‘workplace right' such as being entitled to the benefit of an award or agreement or making a complaint or inquiry.

Employees with carer's responsibilities will also now be protected from discriminatory treatment.

Unfair dismissal
Under Work Choices, employees in businesses with up to 100 workers could be dismissed for any reason without rights to challenge the dismissal.

The Bill provides a new scheme of unfair dismissal protections to ensure good employees are protected from being dismissed unfairly, while enabling employers to manage under-performing employees with fairness and with confidence.

Employees of a small business will not be able to claim for unfair dismissal until after they have served a qualifying period of twelve months, while for larger businesses, the qualifying period is six months.

‘Operational reasons' will no longer be a defence to a claim of unfair dismissal. However, a dismissal is not unfair if it is for reasons of genuine redundancy.

The Bill recognises that small businesses do not have the human resources support that larger businesses enjoy. The Bill provides for the publication of a simple Small Business Fair Dismissal Code which, if followed, will ensure a dismissal is not found to be unfair. The Code requires the giving of a warning, based on a reason that validly relates to the employee's performance or capacity to do the job, and a reasonable opportunity for the employee to improve his or her performance. The Code makes it clear the employer has the right to dismiss without notice an employee for serious misconduct.

The process for Fair Work Australia dealing with unfair dismissal applications will be streamlined and simplified.

Industrial action, secret ballots and strike pay
The Bill provides clear rules to govern industrial action. The Bill distinguishes between protected industrial action which may legitimately occur during bargaining and unprotected industrial action taken outside of bargaining.

The Bill requires employees to approve industrial action through a secret ballot, while streamlining the ballot process.

When protected industrial action occurs, employers must deduct pay for the actual period of time the employee stopped work. If partial work bans are implemented, employers will be able to issue a notice and deduct a proportion of pay, with any disputes resolved by Fair Work Australia. The Bill provides that pre-emptive lockouts – taken by the employer where the employees have not taken any industrial action – will no longer be protected action.

For unprotected industrial action, such as industrial action during the life of an agreement, the Bill provides that employees will face a mandatory minimum deduction of four hours' pay.

Right of entry
The Bill provides a fair and proper balance between the rights of employees and their union to meet in the workplace and the rights of employers to run their businesses without interference.

The Bill provides a right for members of a union that is eligible to represent their industrial interests (and potential members of that union) to meet with their union at the workplace during non-working hours for the purpose of holding discussions. No employee can be discriminated against for participating in, or declining to participate in, such discussions.

The Bill provides that the right to enter premises to hold discussions comes with strict obligations, including the holding of a valid right of entry permit, the giving of 24 hours' notice to enter and requirements for conduct while on site.

Unions will continue to be able to investigate alleged breaches of workplace obligations that affect a member or members of the union. The right is subject to strict requirements. Unions will be able to look at and copy employment records of all employees but only where those records are relevant to the suspected breach being investigated.

The Bill includes new protections against misuse of information obtained by the union investigating suspected breaches.

COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT
The Bill establishes an integrated framework to oversee the new workplace relations system.

Fair Work Australia
The Bill establishes Fair Work Australia to act as a one-stop shop for information, advice and assistance on workplace issues, by merging the functions currently performed across seven government agencies.

Fair Work Australia will be independent and will be focused on providing fast and effective assistance for employers and employees.

Fair Work Divisions of the courts
Fair Work Divisions will be created in the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrate's Court to hear matters which arise under the new workplace relations laws.

The Courts will have new and more effective powers to deal with any breaches of the Act and entitlements, including the power to make ‘any order they consider appropriate' to remedy a breach as well as injunctions to restrain breaches.

A new user-friendly small claims jurisdiction will be provided where the Court will not be bound by the rules of evidence and may act in an informal manner.

Fair Work Ombudsman
The Bill establishes the Office of Fair Work Ombudsman, with functions including promoting harmonious and cooperative workplace relations and compliance by providing education, assistance and advice.

Transition to the new system
It is intended that the Bill will commence on 1 July 2009. However, consistent with election policy commitments, the National Employment Standards and modern awards will commence on 1 January 2010.

Separate legislation, the Transitional Bill, will be introduced in the first half of 2009 to set out transitional and consequential changes to ensure a smooth, simple and fair transition to the new scheme, while providing for certainty.

The Transitional Bill will:

  • ensure that an employee's take home pay is not reduced as a result of the employee's transition onto a modern award by allowing for Fair Work Australia to make orders to deal with any such matter;
  • provide that existing agreements will continue to apply until terminated or replaced by a new agreement made under the new bargaining framework;
  • ensure a fair safety net with the National Employment Standards and minimum wages applying to all employees from 1 January 2010, including those covered by existing agreements; and
  • allow parties to ‘modernise' enterprise awards so that they can continue to operate in the new system and treat Notional Agreements Preserving State Awards (NAPSAs) derived from State enterprise awards in the same way.

NATIONAL SYSTEM FOR THE PRIVATE SECTOR
The Bill will apply to 'national system' employers and their employees, relying principally on the corporations' power of the Constitution.

The Government is working with States and Territories to achieve a national workplace relations system for the private sector.

The Bill will exclude State and Territory industrial laws but not in areas such as discrimination, workers' compensation and occupational health and safety.

CONCLUSION
This Bill ensures balance and fairness in Australian workplaces.

Work Choices made the mistake of swinging the workplace relations pendulum to the extreme, destroying the employment safety net and stripping away basic industrial rights for employees.

The Fair Work Bill 2008 recognises the importance of balance. Balance in terms of supporting entrepreneurship, initiative and the growth of the businesses that produce our goods and services and employ others, while providing for fair and decent work for employees and a fair return for their labour.

With the introduction today of the Fair Work Bill, Work Choices is tantalisingly close to being gone forever, along with the careers of those who tried to foist it, without a mandate and without transparency, on an unwilling Australia people.

This Bill achieves the right balance in a way that is true to the values that made us who and what we are.

The world is a lot different to the one in which Australia devised the original conciliation and arbitration system more than one hundred years ago. Economic reform, globalization, new technologies and rising levels of education have rendered the old ways obsolete.

Today building greater opportunity for all Australians requires a degree of flexibility and responsiveness that would have been unimaginable to previous generations. Competition is sharper and innovation faster.

But in this new world, Australians voted for a workplace relations system that delivers a fair go, the benefits of mateship at work, a decent safety net and a fair way of striking a bargain.

That's what this Bill does.

 

 

 

25th November 2008

 

Today the Minister for Workplace Relations Julia Gillard introduced the Government's new laws which will dismantle WorkChoices legislation, which she says will create a fairer system for both workers and employers.

The Fair Work bill now covers all workers under unfair dismissal laws, establishes Fair Work Australia, legislates for "good faith" collective bargaining and does not differentiate between a union or non-union agreement.

Ms Gillard explained that the bill delivers on the Federal Government's election promises.

"The bill being introduced today is based on the enduring principle of fairness while meeting the needs of the modern age," .

"The bill delivers a fair and comprehensive safety net of minimum employment conditions that cannot be stripped away - a system that has at its heart bargaining in good faith at the enterprise level as this is essential to maximise workplace cooperation and improve productivity and create rising national prosperity."

The legislation establishes the Fair Work Australia policy which will facilitate and approve collective bargaining agreements, deal with unfair dismissal claims and workplace disputes, and adjust minimum wages.

Fair Work Australia (FWA) will replace six other existing bodies, including the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the Australian Fair Pay Commission, the Workplace Ombudsman and the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

If an employer refuses to take part in bargaining, FWA can order them to take part if it finds that a majority of employees want to collectively bargain.

Ms Gillard says the bill also does not recognise any difference between union or non-union agreements.

"Instead an agreement is made when approved by a valid majority of the employees to whom it will apply," she said.

"A union that acted as a bargaining representative during the negotiations may apply to be covered by the agreement.

"This new framework is premised by good faith bargaining."

To be approved by FWA, agreements must be ruled as making employees "better off overall" and must comply with the 10 National Employment Standards.

The 10 National Employment Standards which include such provisions as a 38-hour week, four weeks' annual leave and a right to request flexible working arrangements are included in the legislation.

Low income workers will now also be able to use enterprise bargaining.

Pattern bargaining will not be allowed and employers can only lock out employees in response to action taken by workers.

All employees will now be eligible to apply for an unfair dismissal claim.

However, a worker employed with a firm of less than 15 people must be employed with the firm for at least 12 months before they are eligible.

Those who work for larger firms will be eligible after six months.

The bill also includes new modern awards which will begin on January 1, 2010.

Ms Gillard says the new awards must make provision for individual flexibility arrangements, which means a worker can agree with an employee on specific arrangements which can be allowed.

The awards will be reviewed every four years by Fair Work Australia.

 

 

5th November 2008

 

Meeting of the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council

 

Today’s 78th meeting of the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC) saw progress in the development of national workplace relations and occupational health and safety (OHS) arrangements. The meeting again reflected the spirit of cooperative federalism which has been the hallmark of the Council’s deliberations throughout 2008.

In respect of workplace relations, Ministers were briefed on the Federal Government’s substantive workplace relations legislation, in particular issues arising from the Committee on Industrial Relations Legislation’s recent consideration of the draft legislation.

In outlining the current state of play, the Deputy Prime Minister thanked Ministers for the valuable contribution that senior officials from the states and territories had made to the development of the substantive legislation. Ministers expressed their appreciation at the unprecedented opportunity provided to states and territories to examine the draft legislation and the Federal Government’s unparalled commitment to meaningful consultation on the legislation.

Ministers acknowledged the draft legislation as providing the foundation for a national workplace relations system for the private sector based on Forward with Fairness. To that end, Ministers agreed that senior officials from all jurisdictions would meet further to discuss matters concerning the transition to a new national workplace relations system for the private sector, in particular issues relating to governance and service delivery including compliance and tribunals.

Ministers noted the Deputy Prime Minister’s intention to introduce the substantive workplace relations legislation into the Federal Parliament later this year and to progress governance arrangements in the coming months.

On OHS, Ministers were provided with the first report of the National Review into Model Occupational Health and Safety Laws (a copy of the report is attached). Ministers were briefed on the report by Mr Robin Stewart-Crompton, Chair of the National OHS Review Panel. The Report addresses key issues such as duties of care, offences and defences. The Panel’s second report will be provided to Ministers at the end of January 2009.

Ministers noted the first report and agreed to ask senior officials to examine the report and report back to the next meeting of WRMC on areas of agreement and any unresolved matters. Ministers requested that the National OHS Review Panel brief key stakeholders as soon as possible on its first report and noted the Panel’s intention to hold further consultations in preparing its second report.

Ministers were also updated on the progress of legislation to establish Safe Work Australia. Ministers highlighted that Senate amendments to the Safe Work Australia Bill 2008 were inconsistent with the historic commitment of all governments to uniform national OHS legislation as reflected in the inter-governmental agreement on OHS reforms signed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in July 2008.

The WA Minister noted that the WA Government supports a number of the amendments passed by the Senate.

However, Ministers noted with much concern that the amendments threatened the harmonisation of national OHS legislation, thereby delaying a significant and long overdue economic reform which would enhance OHS outcomes, reduce red tape for business and strengthen Australia’s productive capacity.

Ministers endorsed the proposed response to COAG on recommendations from the Productivity Commission Study into Plastics and Chemicals Regulation. Ministers also endorsed the Australian Safety and Compensation Council’s Comparison of Occupational Health and Safety Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand.

Ministers also noted developments regarding the Federal Government’s new Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme.

Attendees included:

  • Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard MP, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations (Cth)
  • The Hon Rob Hulls MP, Minister for Industrial Relations (VIC)
  • The Hon John Hatzistergos MLC, Minister for Industrial Relations (NSW)
  • The Hon John Mickel MP, Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (QLD)
  • The Hon Paul Caica MP, Minister for Industrial Relations (SA)
  • The Hon Troy Buswell MLA, Minister for Commerce (WA)
  • The Hon Tim Holding MP, Minister for WorkCover (VIC)
  • The Hon Joseph Tripodi MP, Minister for WorkCover (NSW)

 

 

1st October 2008

 

A new minimum wage was announced today to help lower paid Australians cope with the current financial pressures.

The new rates were determined by the Australian Fair Pay Commission earlier this year.

The decision also increases adult rates of pay in Australian Pay and Classification Scales (Pay Scales) by approximately $21.66 per week.

From today, the new Federal Minimum Wage is $543.78 per week ($14.31 per hour) up from $522.12 per week ($13.74 per hour).

The increases will flow on to minimum rates of pay for junior employees, employees to whom training arrangements apply, employees with a disability and piece workers.

Some of Australia’s most vulnerable employees including many in retail, accommodation, cafes and restaurants and health and community services will benefit from this increase.

From 1 January 2010, under the Government’s workplace relations system, minimum wages will be set by a new independent body, the Fair Work Australia Minimum Wages Panel.

Employers and employees wanting more information about the wage increase are encouraged to call the Workplace Info line on 1300 363 264

 

 

 

17th September 2008

 

There is a growing international economic consensus that good employment practices are fully consistent with continuing economic reform. In the US, the UK and the European Union policy makers are now debating how best to maintain community support for the global market economy by improving fairness at work. The US Congress, for instance, currently has before it an Employee Free Choice Act which aims to enhance collective bargaining.

In other words, legislators in the largest free market economies in the world are now examining how to get the balance right between employee fairness, business flexibility and national economic competitiveness. This is what the Government’s new workplace relations laws will also do.

They have been developed with an unprecedented level of consultation, involving all major stakeholders. And they will get the balance right by:

  • providing a strong safety net for employees;
  • promoting workplace flexibility;
  • delivering an enterprise-level collective bargaining system to drive productivity;
  • creating good faith bargaining rules;
  • ensuring tough sanctions against unprotected industrial action; and
  • providing strong but simple protections against unfair dismissal.

They will give employers and employees certainty about the future. They will build a stronger, fairer and more secure Australia that is capable of handling the great challenges of the Twenty-First Century.


1. The safety net

The first, and for many people, most important element of Labor’s new workplace relations system is going to be a strong safety net for all employees. Its bedrock is a new set of 10 minimum National Employment Standards that cannot be stripped away. The final draft of the Standards was published in June this year after extensive consultation and is now well known.

For those earning under $100,000 a year, the Standards will be complemented by Modern Awards, tailored to the needs of particular industries or occupations. These Modern Awards will include up to ten additional entitlements, including: minimum wage rates, overtime and penalty rates, provisions about when work is to be performed and procedures for consultation, representation and dispute resolution.

Modern Awards will be fewer in number, simpler to understand and easier to apply in the workplace. For example, last Friday, the AIRC published exposure drafts of a number of Modern Awards, including a new award for the coal mining industry. It replaces 14 pre-reform awards totalling more than 500 pages with a single document just 26 pages long.

Australia’s new Modern Awards will be finalised and in operation from 1 January 2010. The process won’t be easy, but it will benefit Australia for decades to come. And I encourage everyone to be part of the AIRC consultation process as it finalises the drafting of the Modern Awards.


Minimum Wages Panel

To keep the minimum wages in Modern Awards up to date, minimum wages and associated casual leave loadings will be reviewed every year by a specialist Minimum Wages Panel within Fair Work Australia. The Panel, headed by the President of Fair Work Australia, will comprise up to seven full and part-time members, both specialists and generalists, drawn from the wider community with relevant experience in economic and social policy.

It will take a non-adversarial, inquisitorial approach to determining the minimum wage and welcome submissions and responses from all interested parties.

Review of awards

Fair Work Australia will review Modern Awards every four years to ensure they are responsive to the needs of Australia’s dynamic market economy and are keeping up with community standards of what constitutes a fair minimum safety net. The first such review is set to take place in 2014.

These Modern Award reviews will balance public interest, social and economic factors. Outside these four-yearly reviews, awards will only be varied in limited circumstances, such as to remove ambiguity, uncertainty or discriminatory terms. This means for the first time employers will have the benefit of being able to know and plan for revisions of the safety net.

Labor said in Forward with Fairness that we’d give Australians a guaranteed safety net of wages and conditions; and we have.


2. A New Bargaining System

Importantly, our new system will put an emphasis on enterprise-level collective bargaining. Genuine, good faith bargaining at the enterprise level allows employees and employers to examine the way they work, discover new ways to improve productivity and efficiency, and share ideas that make workplaces more harmonious and flexible. And by doing so it will help lift national productivity. Good faith bargaining

Under the new system employers and employees will be required to bargain in good faith for a mutually acceptable outcome. Of course most workplaces already bargain in good faith without intervention. They meet; they exchange positions; they provide relevant supporting information; they respect each other’s right to be represented in the bargaining process; and they consider and respond to each others’ positions.

Occasionally, though, this doesn’t happen. In these circumstances, our independent industrial umpire Fair Work Australia will be able to make good faith bargaining orders that can direct parties to meet; disclose relevant information; consider proposals and respond to them; and refrain from unfair or capricious conduct.

Good faith bargaining will not require parties to make concessions, or to sign up to an agreement when they don’t agree. Parties will still be able to take a tough stance in negotiations. Compulsory arbitration will not be a feature of good faith bargaining. Arbitration will be limited to exceptional circumstances only – where industrial action is causing a threat to safety or health, a threat to the economy, or significant harm to the parties.


Agreement content

Under Labor’s new legislation parties will be able to bargain over a wider range of content than they can at present under Work Choices.The former Liberal Government dictated a list of ‘prohibited content’ that could not be included in an agreement regardless of the wishes of the parties.

But under the new legislation all matters that properly relate to the work performed and the entitlements of employees in the workplace, as well as their effective representation, will be able to be the subject of bargaining, as they should be. Agreements will be able to include matters like salary sacrifice arrangements, health insurance, child care and payroll deductions of union dues for union members.

Terms dealing with the operation of the agreement will also be allowed. But matters that are properly the prerogative of management – like decisions about closing an unprofitable plant or using a preferred supplier – will not be included in enterprise agreements, as has always been the case.

Industrial action

An important feature of the new legislation will be tough rules on industrial action. Our new laws will distinguish between protected industrial action which may legitimately occur during the bargaining and unprotected industrial action taken outside of bargaining.

Protected industrial action will be allowed in the course of bargaining, in accordance with strict rules, including a secret ballot of employees and three days’ notice of intention to take the action. But unprotected industrial action will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

Even short unplanned stop work actions can have devastating effects on employers with time-critical processes. For this reason, employees who engage in "wild-cat" snap strikes or bans instead of following proper dispute resolution processes will face significant consequences.

Employees will face a mandatory minimum deduction of four hours’ pay for any incident of unprotected industrial action and it will be unlawful to pay or demand to be paid for this period.

In the case of protected industrial action, our system will provide proportional, sensible and workable options for employers to respond. Employers will not be permitted to pay strike pay, as is the case at present. If an employee stops work and the action is protected, their pay must be deducted, but only for the actual period of time the employee stopped work, not for any mandatory minimum period – as under Work Choices. It will still be unlawful to claim or pay strike pay.

But in the case of partial work bans, employers will be able to use their discretion to either: tolerate the bans; stand down or lock out employees; or issue a ‘partial work notice’ and make deductions proportional to any work not performed. Fair Work Australia will be able to review whether the amount deducted is proportional if required.

As the ultimate response to industrial action, employers will be able to lock out employees. But offensive, pre-emptive lockouts – taken by the employer when employees haven’t taken any industrial action – will no longer be permitted.

Labor said in Forward with Fairness that we’d return the emphasis to enterprise-level collective bargaining whilst keeping clear, tough rules for industrial action; and we have.


3. Multi-employer bargaining for the low paid

We support enterprise bargaining because it’s good for the economy and we want more Australians to benefit from it. Currently, many employees in industries like child care, community work, security and cleaning, which typically employ women, part-timers, casuals or recent migrants, struggle to effectively bargain with their employers. As a result they often remain stuck on award rates and unfavourable conditions.

Under the new legislation low-paid workers like these may be empowered to bargain on a multi-employer basis. A union or bargaining representative will be able to apply to Fair Work Australia for entry into a new "low-paid stream" to bargain with a specified list of employers. They will not be able to undertake protected industrial action, but they will be able to utilise Fair Work Australia’s good faith bargaining rules and powers of mediation and conciliation.

And Fair Work Australia will only be able to make a binding determination if the parties agree. To understand what this means in practice, take the example of a cleaner for a small city-based cleaning company who is currently paid just $14.71 per hour for two separate 2-hour shifts at the beginning and end of each day.

Understandably, she and her colleagues across a number of separate sub-contracting firms want to discuss a new way of working, so they can consolidate their working day into a single four-hour shift, effectively shortening their working day so they can spend more time with their families.

But the small cleaning contractor companies say they can't make any changes to the current arrangements because "that's what the head contractor wants". Under our system of multi-employer bargaining for the low paid, the cleaners' union will be able to bring together the small cleaning companies and the head contractor into the one room, under the auspices of Fair Work Australia, to negotiate new work and pay arrangements across the group.

This is the sort of fair play that I believe will be strongly endorsed across the community. We said in Forward With Fairness that we’d do it; and we have.


4. New freedom of association protections

As promised in Forward With Fairness our new laws will also guarantee Australians important rights at work. All Australian workers will be free to join a union and make their own choice about whether or not to participate in activities like collective bargaining and protected industrial action. And it will be unlawful to try to stop them exercising this free choice by threats, pressure, discrimination, inducements, victimisation or dismissal.

It will also be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against anyone who represents their colleagues in a dispute, or to sack or otherwise disadvantage an employee for making inquiries about their pay or entitlements.Many of these rights already exist but our new legislation will make them easier to follow and simpler to enforce.


5. Unfair dismissal

Our new laws will also bring some good old fashioned common sense and balance to the issue of unfair dismissal. In the past small business operators have raised genuine concerns about the impact of unfair dismissal laws on their business activities. The Government agrees with them that they should be allowed to get on with running their businesses, making a profit and giving people jobs.

The previous Liberal Government swept aside all unfair dismissal protections for employees of businesses with fewer than 100 employees. And if various former Liberal Ministers are to be believed, the Liberal Party wanted to go further and junk protection for every one.

But they forgot something. And that is that in the absence of reasonable protections, very real injustices may take place. When I worked as a lawyer my firm dealt with an unfair dismissal case for a man employed in a small Melbourne bus depot. At the depot the boss’s dog roamed free. A big and unhappy dog, one day it bit one of the employees, who understandably asked the boss in future to keep the dog chained up. The boss responded by sacking the employee.

Called on to choose between a hard working Australian and a dog, the Liberal Party would back the dog. It’s time to put a common sense solution in place and to put this long running debate behind us. Our new Fair Dismissal Code for Small Business will allow this to happen.

Under our laws employees of a small business of fewer than 15 employees will only be able to claim for unfair dismissal after they have been employed for at least 12 months. Twelve months is more than enough time for employees to prove they are up to a job. Once they are tried and tested, they deserve protection from unfair treatment.

To dismiss someone fairly after 12 months the employer will have to comply with a simple and short six-paragraph Fair Dismissal Code for Small Business. Employees will of course still face legitimate summary dismissal for serious misconduct such as theft, fraud, violence and serious breaches of Occupational Health and Safety procedures.

And of course, if an employee is made redundant because of a business downturn or their position is no longer needed, it is not grounds for unfair dismissal. But where dismissal is justified the Code simply requires the employer to:

  • give the employee a warning, based on a reason that validly relates to the employee’s conduct or capacity to do the job; and
  • provide a reasonable opportunity for the employee to improve his or her performance.

It’s as simple as that. Multiple warnings are not required. There is no requirement for "three strikes and you’re out". It is desirable, but not necessary, for a warning to be in writing. As long as employers comply with this Code, the dismissal will be held to be fair. But if an employer doesn’t comply, and sacks a tried and tested employee harshly or unfairly, compensation will follow.

Compensation will, however, be capped at six months’ pay with the full amount only available for the most serious cases. All such disputes will be overseen by Fair Work Australia using fast and informal processes and legal representation will be allowed only in exceptional circumstances. Tried and tested workers who have proved their worth, deserve a fair go. It’s nothing less than how any of us would expect to be treated.

Labor said in Forward with Fairness that we’d produce a fairer, simpler and cheaper unfair dismissals process; and we’ve done it.


6. An independent umpire

And the new system I have outlined today will be overseen by a new independent umpire with teeth: Fair Work Australia. Fair Work Australia will act as a one-stop shop for information, advice and assistance of workplace issues. Its Minimum Wage panel will determine national minimum wages.

It will ensure compliance with new laws, with a new Inspectorate to investigate and enforce breaches, including where necessary through the courts. And specialist Fair Work Divisions will be created in the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrates Court to hear matters that arise under the new laws.

Labor said in Forward With Fairness that we’d create an independent industrial umpire; and we have.


7. Commencement

There’s one additional promise that we’re keeping: delivering our changes on time. The new workplace relations system will commence as announced on 1 January 2010. And to give Australians relief from the harshest remaining aspects of Work Choices as quickly as possible, the new bargaining framework, unfair dismissals and associated protections will come into force six months earlier on 1 July 2009.

 


 

 

National Industrial Relations Summit Speech


20th August 2008

 

A substantial workplace relations reform Bill will be introduced into Parliament later this year.

In the very broadest terms, the new workplace relations arrangements will provide a simple, balanced system that allows employers to get on with business and employees to get on with their jobs.

Its component parts are straightforward.

1. The first is a fair and simple safety net comprising National Employment Standards and modern awards.

The 10 legislated National Employment Standards announced in June will protect important conditions like hours of work, public holidays and redundancy entitlements as well as annual, personal, parental and long service leave.

Employees earning $100,000 (indexed) or less will be protected by modern simple awards that will contain ten minimum conditions such as minimum wages, overtime and penalty rates of pay and superannuation.

Collective agreements will only be approved by the independent umpire, Fair Work Australia, if they meet or exceed the National Employment Standards and leave the employees under the agreement "better off overall" when compared with the modern award.

And common law contracts will also be available – but only if they build on the safety net rather than undermine it.

In other words, the new system will deliver necessary flexibilities but without providing a legislative Trojan horse that allows the safety net to be ripped away . That is a massive difference to Work Choices.

2. The second is collective, enterprise-level bargaining underpinned by good faith bargaining obligations.

One of the problems of Work Choices was that employers were under no obligation to even sit down and discuss new conditions of employment. It promoted a bad faith, take-it-or-leave-it culture.

Our new system fixes that. Under it, if a majority of employees at a workplace want to bargain collectively, their employer will be required to do so in good faith – all without excessive rules and regulations to tilt the balance in favour of one side or the other.

Parties to good faith bargaining will be required to:

  • Participate in meetings at reasonable times;
  • Disclose relevant information and respond to proposals in a timely manner; and
  • Refrain from conduct that is capricious or unfair or which undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.

I want to stress that employees will be represented by unions in bargaining if they so choose, but they will also be able to represent themselves and reach agreement directly with their employer, if that’s what they want.

It will be prohibited for anyone – employer, union, or anyone else – to pressure an employee on the choice that is theirs and theirs alone.

3. The third component of the new system is ensuring that everyone in the workplace is treated fairly and decently and that, when things go wrong, matters can be dealt with quickly and effectively.

This will include a simpler unfair dismissal system which balances the rights of employees to be protected from unfair dismissal with the need for employers, including small business, to manage their workforce, and to ensure a faster, less costly and less complex process for all.

The system will also obviously protect employees from unlawful dismissal on grounds such as family responsibilities, pregnancy and disability.

There will also be strong protections for freedom of association. It will be unlawful to dismiss a person for belonging to a union or for participating in collective bargaining, just as it will be unlawful to discriminate against them for not belonging to a union.

4. The fourth is an independent umpire – Fair Work Australia – to oversee the system and maintain the safety net.

The new umpire will be a ‘one stop shop’, to provide practical information, advice and assistance to deal with workplace issues and to ensure compliance with workplace laws and encourage the adoption of family-friendly work practices.

All appointments to Fair Work Australia will be made through a transparent selection process. This is not an industrial relations club.

5. The fifth and final component of the new workplace relations system is strong compliance measures to ensure all participants comply with their obligations under the law and to ensure stability of operations at the workplace. If they don’t, they will face stiff penalties.

Under the new system, industrial action in an enterprise will be allowed – during good faith collective bargaining periods in accordance with clear rules, including approval through a mandatory secret ballot.

Unprotected industrial action will be dealt with swiftly.

And secondary boycotts will continue to be regulated by the Trade Practices Act and the current rules in relation to right of entry will remain.

BUILDING TRUST THROUGH CONSULTATION

Our aim is to show the way to a more consultative workplace relations system by practising what we preach. The development of the new workplace relations legislation is being based on genuine consultation with all stakeholders.

We’ve established an extensive consultation mechanism that includes all the major workplace relations players, from the largest corporations, to small businesses, to unions and the unemployed.

The Government has made it very clear that we are prepared to:

  • Meet with as many people as it takes;
  • Talk for as long as it takes; and
  • Iron out as many unintended consequences as it needs…

…in order to achieve our workplace relations goals.

It’s what we did to get the award modernisation process underway and to develop the 10 National Employment Standards, which I released in June.

NATIONALLY CONSISTENT WORKPLACE RELATIONS LAWS

One further point is that we want to make our workplace relations laws nationally consistent for the private sector.

Too many businesses that compete across state borders are finding themselves caught up in a complex web of existing state-based industrial relations laws, leading to unnecessary legal bills and time-wasting uncertainty.

So consultation is also underway between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories at the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC) to ensure the new workplace relations system be uniform throughout the private sector workforce. It’s part of our objective of creating a seamless national economy.

There is more consultation to take place before we can settle our new workplace relations system.

But one thing you can be sure of is that the changes will be sensible, will be considered in the light of feedback from employers and their representatives and employees and unions. Our changes will reflect the values of the Australian people.

 

8th July 2008

The Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) has today announced an increase of $21.66 per week to the Federal Minimum Wage (FMW). The AFPC’s decision increases the FMW to $543.78 per week ($14.31 per hour) up from $522.12 per week ($13.74 per hour).

This is a 4.15 per cent increase and will come into effect from the first pay period on or after 1 October 2008, 12 months after the previous annualised increase of 2.4 per cent.

The Government believes the increase is appropriate to the current economic conditions.

The decision to increase the federal minimum wages will directly benefit around 1.3 million Australians, who are in the Federal system and rely on minimum wages.

Today’s decision helps these families keep pace with cost of living increases. The Rudd Government’s tax cuts provide an extra benefit to assist with cost of living pressures.

This is acknowledged in the AFPC’s decision, which states that “this increase of $21.66 per week, together with relevant tax and transfer changes, will provide low income households with real increases in disposable income” (p. 8).

An employee earning the FMW will receive a tax cut of $8.65 per week in addition to the wage increase of $21.66.

A federal award reliant employee earning $676.42 a week will receive a weekly pay increase of $21.66 and a tax cut of $20.19 a week.

The AFPC has estimated that the combined effect of the increase in the FMW and the Government’s tax and transfer payment changes mean a single worker earning the FMW, will see their disposable income increase by 5.7 per cent and for a couple both earning the FMW with two children, their disposable income will increase by 5.5 per cent.

In its submissions to the AFPC, the Government submitted that the AFPC should grant an increase in minimum wages, so that those who rely on minimum wages share in the strong growth in prosperity in Australia.

There is no implication for wage inflation forecasts because the AFPC’s minimum wage decision is consistent with the assumptions on wage growth already factored into Budget forecasts.

In addition, the AFPC’s assessment of the impact of the determination on inflation was measured against a scenario where there was no increase in minimum wages.

The Government also submitted that any increase to the FMW be balanced against any potential impact on inflation, employment, the provision of a safety net and the financial needs of low paid employees.

The Government has committed to retaining the AFPC until 2010. From that date, minimum wages will be set by the Government’s new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia.

 

16th June 2008

The New National Employment Standards announced.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Julia Gillard, today released the new National Employment Standards (NES).

The NES are a key element of the Rudd Government’s new modern workplace relations system and will come into effect on 1 January 2010.

The NES will ensure that all employees are protected by a strong safety net of fair minimum conditions that can’t be stripped away.

The NES will apply to all employees in the Federal system regardless of industry, occupation or income.

The NES were developed following extensive consultation and consideration of submissions to the exposure draft which was released on 14 February 2008.

129 submissions were received from a wide range of stakeholders, including: employee and employer groups; businesses; community organisations and individuals.

The Rudd Government’s consultative approach is in stark contrast to that of the previous Liberal government.

The NES will be simpler for Australian employers.

The Work Choices standard runs to 149 pages of complexity, provides only five minimum conditions and many of the protections provided are sub-standard.

The NES, in contrast provides 10 vital protections in just 50 pages.

The NES provide employers with the flexibility and simplicity they need while also ensuring employees’ key entitlements are protected.

The NES are:

  1. Maximum weekly hours of work
  2. Request for flexible working arrangements
  3. Parental leave and related entitlements
  4. Annual leave
  5. Personal/Carer’s leave and compassionate leave
  6. Community service leave
  7. Long service leave
  8. Public holidays
  9. Notice of termination and redundancy pay
  10. Fair Work Information Statement

The Government will shortly issue a revised Award Modernisation Request to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) attaching the NES to assist in its task of modernising awards.

The NES and award modernisation are integral components of the Government’s commitment to deliver a modern workplace relations system to benefit all Australians.

Legislation will be introduced into Parliament later this year to give effect to the Government’s commitment. The legislation will include other aspects of workplace relations relating to the NES including compliance, interaction with agreement making and future reviews.

The National Employment Standards in more detail can be found at www.fwa.gov.au

 

28th March 2008

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations today proclaimed with the Governor General the Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Act 2008.

 

The legislation reflects the Rudd Government's election commitments, which were set out in Forward with Fairness and the Forward with Fairness Implementation Policy Plan. The key previsions of the Transition to Forward with Fairness Act:

  • Prevents the making of new Australian Workplace Agreements;
  • Allows employers using AWAs as at 1 December 2007 to offer Individual Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs) to new employees and employers already on AWAs, for the transition period while award modernisation takes place;
  • Introduces a genuine no-disadvantage test for new collective agreements and ITEAs;
  • Enables the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to undertake the process of award modernisation; and
  • Removes the requirement for employers to provide the Workplace Relations Fact Sheet to their employees.

Following the nominal expiry date of an AWA made under Work Choices, it may be terminated unilaterally by either the employer or employee on 90 days’ notice. The employee would then be entitled to the benefit of the whole of an applicable collective agreement or award in the workplace.

As requested by employer and employee representatives, the Act will allow parties to retain pre-Work Choices certified agreements and to extend or vary those agreements in limited circumstances to avoid a odouble transition prior to the commencement of the Government’s new workplace relations system in 2010.

The Government will introduce its substantive workplace relations reforms into Parliament later this year after extensive consultation, to ensure that the Rudd Government's new workplace relations system is fair, flexible and productive.

 

 

27th March 2008

As of midnight 27th March 2008 no new workplace agreements can be made or signed. The legislation was officially signed off today.

 

20th March 2008

The bill to abolish any implementation of new workplace agreements was passed through the senate today.

Parliament has agreed that there will be laws in this country which mean there will be no new Australian Workplace Agreements made. It's the beginning of the end of Work Choices and will deliver the end of Work Choices in the next piece of legislation.

One of the amendments, allowing an easing of arrangements for the signing of Interim Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs), meant statutory individual agreements could go on forever.

The amendment would allow eligible employers and employees to continue under ITEAs even after the permanent arrangements were brought in next year.

 

17th March 2008

The federal government is moving to have its workplace relations legislation rubber stamped by the end of the week.

Labor's transition bill to abolish Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) will pass through the lower house on Monday.

A Senate inquiry into the laws will also report to Parliament on Monday.

Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard said the government wants the bill passed before Easter but is willing to amend the legislation if worthwhile recommendations are made.

"We anticipate that Labor's bill will go through the House of Representatives in the middle of the day," Ms Gillard told ABC Radio.

"The Senate inquiry will report and we will be asking the Senate to deal with the legislation so that it is finalised before Easter."

The committee overseeing the Senate inquiry has studied around 60 submissions and has travelled around the country collecting evidence.

"It may be that the Senate inquiry does come up with some technical advice that is worth listening to, and we will be happy to consider their report when we receive it," Ms Gillard said.

"We have always been open to making technical or clarifying changes which were in accord with Labor's legislation.

"Our policy is going to be delivered, it's going to be delivered in full, and we wouldn't count any amendments that were different from our policy."

The federal opposition has said it would support Labor's legislation.

Opposition spokeswoman for workplace relations Julie Bishop said the inquiry has raised serious concerns in relation to the building industry and wants the laws redrafted.

"Construction is done on a project basis, people are employed for the life of the project and Labor's transition arrangements don't take into account that kind of employment contract," Ms Bishop told ABC Radio."While I'm reading the evidence I am coming to the view that the bill needs serious redrafting.

"Hopefully the Senate report will highlight the shortcomings and the government will analyse the evidence before the Senate inquiry and will redraft the bill."

 

Interview on ABC radio

 

 

21st February 2008

New workplace relations laws, computers in schools policy.

In a radio interview Julia Gillard explains some of the changes that will be introduced in the time leading up to the complete implementation of the new Fair Work Australia policy..

 

......We are going to have a two year transition period but perhaps if I explain what it will be like when the system is in full operation. You will go to work and you will have some choices about how you work with your employer to define your employment conditions. You will be able to make an individual common law contract if you want to. Significantly with a common law contract, you’ve always got to get better than the safety net. So you know that you will get our ten National Employment Standards, guaranteeing your basic conditions. And if you earn $100,000 or less and most people do, then you will also get a safety net of a modern simple award and your contract can build on those two things but it can’t take any element of them away. Or you can band together with your workmates, if that’s what you want to do and negotiate a collective agreement with your employer .....

 

14th February 2008

The new 'Forward with Fairness' bill was introduced to parliament today. The new workplace relations amendment (or Transition to Forward with Fairness) is the first step towards the new Labour Governments improved IR laws.

The Bill gives effect to key Rudd Government election commitments, as set out in Forward with Fairness and Forward with Fairness Policy Implementation Plan.

To read the complete speech transcript go here.

 

1st January 2008

Currently there have been no changes to the industrial relations laws so those set out under the Howard governments 'Work Choices' policy still apply.

We will have updates to any information regarding changes posted here as they occur. Until then we can provide the information given regarding the new Fair Work Australia policy proposed by Prime Minister Rudd and the new Labour government.

In January 2010 the new Fair Work Australia policy will be implemented, replacing the current work choices (‘workchoices Australia’). In the lead up to this there will be changes made to these current Work Choices Australia industrial relations laws.

 

Go to The Basics to view the major changes.

 

 

 

 
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