The workplace landscape is about to change under Labor’s IR plans. Now that we have some details, here is what to expect. By PETER VITALE.
By Peter Vitale
Industrial relations and workplace arrangements were always in the spotlight for Labor. The new Government is about to put theory into practice.
This Thursday, Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard will meet with the Workplace Relations Consultative Committee, consisting of employer and union representatives to discuss the Rudd Government’s first piece of industrial relations legislation. The Government’s initial transmission bill will be introduced into Parliament at its first sittings, beginning in February.
In an announcement just before Christmas, Gillard indicated that the key features of the transitional legislation would be:
- To prevent the making of any new AWAs. The exact date that this part of the legislation will become operative is still to be announced.
- To allow employers and employees to enter into the Labor Government’s interim individual arrangements, to be known as Interim Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs).
- Remove the requirement that employers provide all employees with a “workplace relations fact sheet”, introduced in the last months of the Howard government, although it appears that Labor will have its own version, to be known as a “fair work information statement”.
- Replace the fairness test with a new “no disadvantage test”.
- Enable the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to commence the process of “modernising” awards.
Other aspects of Labor’s election policy will be the subject of separate legislation in at least two later stages.
An initial “exposure” draft of the legislation to implement the proposed 10 “national employment standards” (NESs) will also be released soon, with a view to finalising the content of that legislation by mid 2008. The 10 NESs, which will replace the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard, and parts of current award conditions, are as follows:
- A standard 38-hour working week.
- A guarantee of 12 months unpaid parental leave for both parents concurrently, with the right to request an additional 12 months leave for one parent (which can only be refused by an employer on reasonable grounds).
- The right for employees to request flexible working arrangements until a child reaches school age, which can only be refused by an employer on reasonable grounds.
- Four weeks annual leave.
- 10 days personal leave and up to two days compassionate leave.
- Community service leave, such as paid jury service leave and unpaid emergency services leave.
- Public holidays.
- A requirement that employers provide a fair work information statement.
- Notice of termination of employment and redundancy payments.
- Long service leave.
It is proposed that these changes will come into effect in 2010. In the meantime the Australian Industrial Relations Commission will be considering the content of awards, which will consist of other conditions such as:
- Minimum wages.
- Overtime rates of pay.
- Penalty rates of pay, for instance for shift work.
- Classification of work as full time, part time or casual.
- Span of working hours and rest breaks.
- Annualisation of wages, including penalties and overtime pay.
- Allowances and expense reimbursement.
- Leave loading and arrangements for taking leave.
- Dispute resolution.
The lessons for employers:
As always, watch out for the detail; you may need to think about reviewing and updating your employment arrangements, especially with individual employees, soon.
Peter Vitale is the principal of CCI Victoria Legal