Fairness test body starts work on first 50,000 AWAs

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Fairness test body starts work on first 50,000 AWAs

The Workplace Authority (WA), the body which will administer the Federal Government's new AWA fairness test, has begun operating - and already has 50,000 AWAs to assess.

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The Workplace Authority (WA), the body which will administer the Federal Government's new AWA fairness test, has begun operating - and already has 50,000 AWAs to assess.

Amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 1996 received Royal Assent on 28 June 2007 and are now operational.

The Department of Workplace Relations told a Senate Committee hearing last month that it expected each AWA will take 10-14 days to finalise. And the Federal Government expects that next year the WA will have 400,000 to deal with - however none of the AWAs registered before the fairness test was announced on 7 May will come under its protection, and those workers will continue to have no guarantee of compensation for rights and entitlements lost.

600 public servants

The Workplace Authority (WA) came into operation yesterday (Monday) and is expected to have a staff of 600 public servants to process the AWAs.

Employers will be able to present draft AWAs to the WA to see whether they pass the fairness test, and if the WA believes
they do not, it can suggest how the AWA may be worded so that it does.

Non-monetary compensation

The WA will also be able to contact individual employees to see if non-monetary compensation for given up conditions such as penalty rates are real and satisfactory. Employees may also have to provide some kind of documentary support for their acceptance of the non-monetary compensation.

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, welcomed the commencement of the Fairness Test Act and regulations.

'Stronger safety net', says Hockey

'The Act provides a stronger safety net for working Australians - especially those earning less than a base salary of $75,000 a year,' Hockey said. 'The starting point for trading off penalty rates is money. If non-monetary compensation is agreed between an employer and employee, the compensation must be of equivalent monetary value to what is being traded away.'

Hockey said that in such cases the WA 'must be satisfied that the compensation is of significant value to the employee'.

Exemptions only in 'short term crisis'

He said exemptions from the fairness test will only be approved by the WA in exceptional circumstances where a business is facing a short-term crisis.

'More than 50,000 agreements have been lodged with the Workplace Authority since 7 May,' Hockey said. 'The Fairness Test will be applied promptly and consistently to these agreements.'

More details

More details are available from the Workplace Authority.

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