Changes to Fair Work Act   commencements — summary

Analysis

Changes to Fair Work Act commencements — summary

Amendments to the Fair Work legislation via the Fair Work Act Amendment Act 2013 came into effect either on 1 July 2013 or will come into effect from 1 January 2014.

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Amendments to the Fair Work legislation via the Fair Work Act Amendment Act 2013 came into effect either on 1 July 2013 or will come into effect from 1 January 2014.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has published a helpful summary of these changes.

Changes commencing 1 July 2013
 
The changes noted here commenced on 1 July 2013 and relate to family-friendly amendments.

Family-friendly changes
 
The changes mean that:
    • pregnant women can transfer to a safe job even if they havent worked for their employer for 12 months 
    • employees can take special maternity leave without it reducing the amount of unpaid parental leave they can take 
    • employee couples can take up to eight weeks unpaid parental leave at the same time (increasing from three weeks) and can take it in separate periods (eg. two periods of two weeks off) 
    • more groups of employees now have the right to request flexible working arrangements, including: 
      • employees with caring responsibilities
      • parents or guardians of children that are school age or younger
      • employees with disability
      • employees who are 55 years or older
      • employees who are experiencing family violence or who are caring or supporting a family or household member who is experiencing family violence.
    • there is a non-exhaustive list of reasonable business grounds to refuse a request for flexible working arrangements. 

Other changes from 1 January 2014

The changes noted below will apply from 1 January 2014.

New anti-bullying measures
 
Employees who are being bullied at work will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying. The Fair Work Commission will have to start dealing with the matter within 14 days.

Changes to right-of-entry rules
 
These changes affect the rights and powers of officials of organisations who have entry permits to enter businesses. The changes will mean that:
    • interviews and discussions with employees must be held in an area that the business and permit holder agree to (lunch rooms can be used if no agreement can be reached)
    • the Fair Work Commission will be able to deal with disputes about the frequency of visits
    • the Fair Work Commission will be able to: 
      • deal with disputes about accommodation and transport arrangements
      • ensure appropriate conduct by permit holders while they are receiving accommodation or being transported under the arrangements.
Genuine consultation on changes to rosters and hours of work
 
All awards and agreements will have to include a term that requires employers to genuinely consult with their employees about changes to their regular roster and ordinary working hours. When employers want to change an employees regular roster or ordinary hours of work they will have to:
    • give information to employees about the changes
    • invite employees to air their views about how the changes will affect them
    • consider the employees views.
Agreements will also require employers to consult about any major change to a workplace that is likely to have a significant effect on the employees.

Protection of penalty rates
 
The modern award objective in the Fair Work Act 2009 will be amended to protect penalty rates. This will mean that the Fair Work Commission, when making or changing a modern award, will have to take into account the need to provide additional pay for employees working:
    • overtime
    • unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours
    • on weekends or public holidays
    • shifts.
 
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