New fairness test figures - turning the corner or falling behind?


New fairness test figures - turning the corner or falling behind?

The Workplace Authority claims it has 'turned the corner' in processing AWAs through the fairness test, but others say the Authority is falling further behind.


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The Workplace Authority claims it has 'turned the corner' in processing AWAs through the fairness test, but others say the Authority is falling further behind.

In its latest release of statistical information on the application of the fairness test, Workplace Authority head, Barbara Bennett, said in the last month the Authority completed more than 25,000 Fairness Test assessments - more than double that of the previous month.

'In the next couple of weeks we will have caught up and will be processing agreements as they come in,' she said.


However, the ACTU, and NSW IR Minister, John Della Bosca, dispute this interpretation, saying the Authority has only completed assessments on a quarter of the agreements lodged with it and less than 10% have passed the test.

The information released by the Workplace Authority show that:

  • 31,014 agreements have been lodged in September and 150,443 total since Fairness Test applied
  • 145,814 agreements are under active consideration
  • 38,050 assessments completed
  • 12,832 agreements in total have passed the Fairness Test - these agreements commonly provided a higher rate of pay in exchange for changes to protected award conditions
  • 3,762 agreements in total have been assessed as requiring changes within 14 days to meet the Fairness Test - both the employer and employee have been informed of the changes required
  • 11,515 agreements were assessed as not passing the Fairness Test because there is insufficient information provided to allow the Workplace Authority to satisfy itself that the agreement provided fair compensation in lieu of protected award conditions
  • Over 500 agreements have passed the Fairness Test after changes which usually increased the hourly rate of pay to make it fair. Employees covered by these agreements are also entitled to back pay for the period from when the agreement was lodged to the date it was changed
  • 447 agreements have ceased to operate. All agreements that cease to operate are referred to the Workplace Ombudsman to ensure that employees receive any back pay they are entitled to

'Of 150,443 agreements lodged since the Fairness Test was announced, 145,814 have been actioned and 38,050 assessments have been completed,' Bennett said.

ACTU disagrees

However, the ACTU described this assessment of the fairness test figures as 'rubbery'.

It points out that:

The fairness test backlog is getting bigger

  • The backlog of incomplete assessments is around 110,000 agreements and is still getting bigger.
  • This report shows a further 31,014 new agreements were lodged in September and yet only 25,000 assessments were made - demonstrating the backlog got bigger by more than 6,000.

Less than 10% of agreements processed and approved

  • The Workplace Authority report shows less than one in 10 agreements (13,386) have passed the fairness test (with or without change) since it was introduced.
  • This is a pitiful pass rate of just 9.5% - an abject failure on any reasonable account.

Della Bosca also took issue with Bennet's claim that: 'The fastest and easiest way to pass the fairness test is to simply pay employees the right amount.'

'It's laughable that the head of the Workplace Authority says that all employers have to do to pass the tests is "to simply pay employees the right amount",' he said.

No pay scales

'WorkChoices ripped the pay rates out of awards, yet the Australian Fair Pay Commission has failed to publish replacement pay scales to tell workers what they're entitled to and employers what they need to pay.

'So, while the Workplace Authority pats itself on the back for completing only a quarter of assessments, workers continue to receive less pay in their pay-packets and employers continue to struggle with WorkChoices.

'Significant progress', says Hockey

Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, said the statistics showed 'significant progress' had been made in processing agreements through the fairness test.

He said that the current processing rate 'clearly shows that within the next few weeks more agreements will be processed than are received'.

The Minister therefore expects that there will not be an increase in the rate of AWAs received.

The full statistics can be found at the Workplace Authority website.


Ombudsman to chase 'unfair' employers

Fairness test - lack of information; ACTU attack

One in 10 AWAs fail fairness test



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