Fair Work Changes from January 2014

28 December 2013

Is your practice prepared for the changes to the Fair Work Act from 1 January 2014?

The Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 includes a number of changes that take effect from 1 January 2014. The following brief overview draws directly on the information provided by the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Fair Work Commission now has an express function in promoting cooperative and productive workplace relations and preventing disputes.

Amended modern awards objective

The ‘modern awards objective’ has been amended to protect penalty rates. This means that when making or changing a modern award the Fair Work Commission must take into account the need to provide additional pay for employees working overtime; unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours, weekends or public holidays and/or shifts.

Anti-bullying jurisdiction

A worker in a constitutionally covered business who reasonably believes that he or she has been bullied at work can apply directly to the Commission for an order to stop the bullying. The Commission must start to deal with the application within 14 days.

The Fair Work Commission provides a summary of the case management model here, The Commission has also released a draft Anti-Bullying Benchbook for public consultation to help to assist parties lodging or responding to anti-bullying applications. The draft is available for public comment until 27 December 2013.

Michael Corrigan's article on the new legislation outlines what your practice should do to be respond to this change. 

Consent arbitration of general protections and unlawful termination disputes

If both parties consent, the Fair Work Commission now has power to arbitrate unlawful termination and general protections disputes involving a dismissal. This consent arbitration is an alternative to a court application.

This means that an applicant can – with the employer’s agreement and within 14 days of the day the Commission issues a certificate in a general protections dismissal dispute or an unlawful termination dispute – have the dispute arbitrated by the Commission.

Consultation term in modern awards and enterprise agreements

Modern awards and enterprise agreements must contain a term requiring employers to ‘genuinely consult’ with employees about changes to their regular rosters or ordinary hours of work.

When employers want to change an employee’s regular roster or ordinary hours of work they will have to:

  • give information to employees about the changes.
  • invite employees to air their views about how the changes will affect them.
  • consider the employees’ views.

Agreements will also require employers to consult about any major change to a workplace that is likely to have a significant effect on the employees.

Right of entry

The Commission has greater capacity to deal with disputes about the frequency of visits to workplaces by permit holders, and the Commission may deal with disputes about the new arrangements for provision of transport and accommodation to permit holders at remote workplaces.

This item first appeared in ACA Communique, December 2013.

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