Today is the last chance for employers and employees to sign new AWAs, with Labor’s transitional IR legislation to take effect from tomorrow.
The new laws, which were passed by Parliament last week and will be proclaimed today, give employers 14 days to lodge AWAs signed before the laws commence.
That means new AWAs must be signed by today and lodged with the Workplace Authority by close of business on 10 April to be valid and legally enforceable.
The commencement of the new legislation also marks the death of the old fairness test and its replacement by Labor’s new beefed-up no-disadvantage test.
But employers who want to lodge an agreement – whether an ITEA or collective agreement – may find it a bit difficult to do so; the forms and guidelines for employers to lodge agreements in accordance with the no-disadvantage test have yet to be made public, according to Holding Redlich workplace relations partner Charles Power.
“If you make a collective agreement today with your employees and lodged it within 14 days it would be assessed under fairness test, but if you make it tomorrow it will be considered under the no-disadvantage test. But the forms to provide the information relevant to the no-disadvantage test aren’t out in the public domain,” Power says.
“I’ve got a client with a collective agreement going to a vote tomorrow that will be assessed under the no-disadvantage test, but the documents to lodge with the agreement aren’t available, so it does make the process unclear.”
Employers that are able to get AWAs signed and lodged within the required timeframe should expect a bit of a wait before they know if it has been approved. Last week Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard said a backlog of 138,000 AWAs is still sitting in the offices of the Workplace Authority waiting to be processed.
Gillard told Parliament last week that, at the current rate of processing, it will take the authority about eight months to get through the backlog, and that’s without taking into account any further AWAs that will be lodged up until 10 April.
Employers have reportedly continued to lodge AWAs at the rate of about 30,000 a month, despite the election of Labor on an anti-AWA platform and the prospect of AWAs being abolished in the near future.
Just under 300,000 AWAs had been lodged with the Workplace Authority up until February.