The controversial amendments to the Fair Work Act (“the Act”) received Royal Assent on 27 June 2013 presenting more challenges for employers and more red tape to work through in managing their workplaces. Some of the key changes are summarised below.
Extended rights for Flexible Working Arrangements & Parental Leave - with effect 1 July 2013
- Employee rights to request flexible working arrangements and the circumstances in which they are available have been extended;
- a ‘non-exhaustive’ list of reasonable business grounds is also provided which employers may cite as the basis for refusing specific requests;
- any period of unpaid special maternity leave taken by an employee will not reduce their entitlement to unpaid parental leave
- pregnant employees can transfer to a safe job regardless of their period of service;
- concurrent unpaid parental leave has been increased from 3 weeks to 8 weeks; and
- parental leave may be taken in separate periods within the first 12 months of the child’s birth or adoption.
Other Changes to take effect from 1 January 2014
Genuine consultation on changes to rosters and hours of work
Awards and agreements will have to include a term that requires employers to ‘genuinely consult’ with their employees about changes to their regular roster and ordinary working hours by:
- giving information to employees about the changes
- inviting employees to air their views about how the changes will affect them
- considering the employees’ views.
Union Entry Rights
Unions will be permitted to hold meetings with employees in agreed rooms or areas (with “lunchrooms” as a default if agreement can't be reached) and occupiers of premises will be in breach of the Act and subject to penalty if they hinder or obstruct a permit holder from exercising these rights.
Fair Work Commission Floodgates Open
The Fair Work Commission will:
- be able to deal with disputes regarding the frequency of union entry to worksites and disputes relating to accommodation and transport;;
- have a new consent arbitration process for claims of unlawful termination and adverse action; and
- receive applications from workers (defined broadly to include contractors, apprentices, trainees and work experience students) for orders to stop "bullying at work" (defined as repeated unreasonable behaviour by an individual or group of individual which creates a risk to a worker's health and safety) and must start to deal with matter within 14 days of receiving the application.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss these changes further, please call our Workplace Solutions team on 9635-7966 to speak with one of our employment lawyers.