Fair Work Bill – what you need to know
The Fair Work Bill introduces substantial changes to the laws currently governing minimum employee entitlements, collective bargaining, transmission of business and unfair dismissals. The Bill replaces the Workplace Relations Act 1996 and introduces a new workplace relations umpire, Fair Work Australia (FWA).
Although modern awards and the National Employment Standards are planned to begin operation on 1 January 2010, the new collective bargaining framework and the new unfair dismissal regime will commence on 1 July 2009. National Employment Standards The Bill establishes a ‘safety net’ for employees, made up of modern awards, 10 National Employment Standards and minimum wages. The Standards comprise of the following:
- maximum working hours
- parental leave and related entitlements
- requests for flexible work arrangements
- annual leave
- long service leave
- public holidays
- personal/carer’s leave and compassionate leave
- community service leave
- notice of termination and redundancy pay
- fair work information statement
The minimum standards established by these matters can be supplemented through collective bargaining.
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has been working on a streamlined award system, more closely based on industries than the current system.
Modern awards will regulate:
- Minimum wages (replacing the current fair pay and conditions standard)
- The arrangement of work hours including shift work and part-time work
- Leave and leave loadings
- Overtime and penalty rates
Employees that earn more than $100,000 per year will not be covered by modern awards.
The Bill makes it compulsory for employers to participate in collective bargaining in specific circumstances. Once the employer is involved in the process, they must negotiate in good faith. Fair Work Australia can order parties to bargain in good faith.
The Bill simplifies the current unfair dismissal provisions, largely in terms of who is or who is not allowed to bring a claim.
This can come down to the following issues:
- an employee in a business with less than 15 employees must satisfy a qualifying period of 12 months of service before being entitled to bring a claim
- an employee in a business with more than 15 employees must satisfy a qualifying period of at least 6 months service before being able to bring a claim
- employees that are not covered by an award or earn more than $100,000 per year are excluded employees who have been made ‘genuinely redundant’ are excluded
Unfair dismissal claims will be determined by Fair Work Australia. The primary focus will be on informality and maintaining fair play in the resolution process.
Union right of entry
Unions who are eligible to represent the interests of employees in a workplace will be allowed to enter that workplace to hold discussions with employees. It does not matter whether or not employees are union members, only that they are eligible to be.
When exercising a right of entry to investigate a suspected breach, an eligible union representative will be permitted to inspect and make copies of any record, including records of employees who are not members of the relevant union.