Devil in the detail on new employment standards

Business groups will closely scrutinise new minimum employment standards to be released by the Rudd Government on Thursday to ensure new rights to request family friendly work arrangements do not unduly increase employment costs.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting chief executive Peter Anderson says it is crucial that Labor sticks to its commitment not to force employers to agree to more than one year parental leave or flexible work arrangements if it doesn’t make business sense.

“It is important that we take one step at a time. These are new rights that need to be balanced against their practicality for business, and that’s why the ALP in opposition said it would create these new rights but it wouldn’t create a system that could override the employer’s decision, and we’ll expect them to stick to that principle,” Anderson says.

Labor is also likely to introduce its first tranche of industrial relations legislation into Parliament on Thursday, but confusion in Opposition ranks on the approach to AWAs means it is unclear just how much difficulty Labor will have in passing it through the Coalition-dominated Senate.

Some Opposition MPs, lead by deputy leader and workplace relations spokeswoman Julie Bishop, are reportedly in favour of rejecting Labor’s legislation unless it retains AWAs, while others hold less hardline views that could see the laws passed more quickly.

ACCI’s Anderson says he is not worried by the prospect that the fate of the legislation could remain in limbo for some time, and welcomes a Senate inquiry into the laws.

“It’s important not to rush any of these changes,” Anderson says. “The Australian economy cannot withstand a economic hit of our own making, so any changes to our IR laws need to be carefully examined so that they minimise their impact on the economy.”

The 10 new national employment standards, to be released in draft form on Thursday, are expected to deal with:

  • Hours of work.
  • A right for a parent to request 12 months unpaid parental leave in addition to the 12 months they are legally entitled to.
  • A right for parents to request flexible work arrangements until their child reaches school age.
  • Annual leave.
  • All full-time non-casual employees will be entitled to 10 days’ paid personal and carers leave each year.
  • Community service leave for activities like jury duty.
  • Public holidays.
  • Employers required to provide employees with a Fair Work Information statement explaining workplace rights and obligations.
  • Minimum termination periods and redundancy rights to apply to workplaces with more than 15 employees.
  • Maintenance of existing long service leave entitlements.

Click here for more on employers’ responsibilities to accommodate family responsibilities



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