Fairness test - lack of information; ACTU attack

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Fairness test - lack of information; ACTU attack

AWAs which were lodged after the announcement of the fairness test but before the rules were announced almost two months later are clogging up the administration of the test because they don't contain the required information. Meanwhile the plea to employers by the Workplace Authority for them to provide more information with their AWAs shows the fairness test 'is a farce that is getting worse', the ACTU claims.

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AWAs which were lodged after the announcement of the fairness test but before the rules were announced almost two months later are clogging up the administration of the test because they don't contain the required information. Meanwhile the plea to employers by the Workplace Authority for them to provide more information with their AWAs shows the fairness test 'is a farce that is getting worse', the ACTU claims.

Lack of information clogs up fairness test process

AWAs which were lodged after the announcement of the fairness test but before the rules were announced almost two months later are clogging up the administration of the test because they don't contain the required information.

But even since the fairness test details became public some employers are still not providing sufficient information to get their AWAs through.

Likely to fail

Workplace Authority head, Barbara Bennett, has appealed to employers to now provide the required information when lodging agreements for checking against the fairness test, otherwise it is likely their AWAs will fail.

'As we are processing agreements, we are finding that some employers haven't included sufficient information,' she said. 'This means we have to write back and in many cases also call them seeking that detail. This is slowing down the fairness test assessment process.

May take time

'It is understandable that it may take time for employers to understand the new rules under the fairness test. It is clear that the bulk of the agreements which are requiring further information are ones which were lodged in the weeks after the announcement of the fairness test on May 7 and prior to the legislation coming into effect in July.'

Bennett said that to pass the fairness test, the Workplace Authority must be satisfied that a workplace agreement provides fair compensation for any changes to protected conditions such as penalty rates.

Work obligations

'To make that assessment, we need to know key information such as the working patterns and work obligations of the employees,' she said.

Where that information isn't provided the Workplace Authority writes to the employer.

Employers are being asked to supply information such as:

  • Classification of the employee. The job title and position description of the employee allows the Workplace Authority to understand what they are employed to do and therefore if the agreement is fair.
  • Span of hours worked. Information about rostering arrangements enables the Workplace Authority to see whether the employee is missing out on money if the employee largely works weekends and this protected condition has been changed.

Bennet said in these cases employers are asked to complete a simple additional information form with the information needed for the fairness test. This form is sent by email directly to the employer who lodged the agreement, or their bargaining agent.

Legal responsibility

'Any employers who have put off responding to our requests for additional information, need to act now,' she said. 'Employers have a legal responsibility to give their employees fair employment conditions and I want to remind them that the Workplace Authority can provide assistance or advice throughout the process.

'Unfortunately, we're finding that some employers are delaying providing the Workplace Authority with this basic information.'

In such cases the Workplace Authority has no alternative but to proceed to assess the agreement on the basis of the limited information available. In most cases this will see those agreements where further information has been sought but not provided assessed as not passing the test and requiring changes within 14 days.

Fairness test 'farce' getting worse - ACTU

The plea to employers by the Workplace Authority for them to provide more information with their AWAs shows the fairness test 'is a farce that is getting worse', the ACTU claims.

Last week the Workplace Authority admitted it is bogged down checking more than 110,000 workplace agreements lodged since the test was introduced in May, saying many employers weren't giving sufficient information about job classifications and span of hours.

'The Workplace Authority is throwing its hands up in despair,' said ACTU President, Sharan Burrow. 'No matter how hard it tries, it cannot make the Howard Government's IR laws fair for employees or practical for employers.'

Burrow said the backlog of workplace agreements that have not been checked is still getting bigger.

Mountain of agreements

'The Workplace Authority admitted several weeks ago it had a mountain of more than 110,000 job agreements still to be checked,' she said. 'With more than 7,000 new workplace agreements being lodged each week and only around 5,000 able to be checked, the backlog is continuing to grow by an extra 2,000 job agreements a week.

'This means it could take more than a year for workers to find out if they have been paid properly.

'It is an absolute disgrace that the Howard Government is wasting so much taxpayers' money on blatantly political pro-WorkChoices ads while the reality is that the IR laws are a mess and the fairness test is a joke.

'The basic problem the Workplace Authority has is that the Howard Government's WorkChoices IR laws are fundamentally flawed - they are unfair, unworkable and un-Australian.'

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