The year that was — the key legislative changes

Analysis

The year that was — the key legislative changes

Last year we saw the enactment of a number of important national legislative changes. These key legislative changes are noted in this article, and organisations should ensure they understand the effect of these changes.

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Last year we saw the enactment of a number of important national legislative changes via the Fair Work Amendment Act 2012, the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Amendment Bill 2011 and the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013.
 
What does this mean for your organisation?
 
The following key legislative changes took effect in 2013. Businesses should ensure they understand the effect of these changes:
New name: Fair Work Australia was renamed as the Fair Work Commission.
 
Unfair dismissal and general protections amended time limits: The time limit for lodging unfair dismissal applications was increased from 14 to 21 days. At the same time, the time limit for lodging a general protections application in respect of dismissal was reduced from 60 days to 21 days.
 
No single-employee enterprise agreements: The changes this year confirmed that an enterprise agreement cannot be made with a single employee.
 
Notice of Representational Rights: The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) was amended to confirm that Notices of Employee Representational Rights must comply with the form and content requirements set out in the Fair Work Regulations 2009. Employers cannot amend the prescribed form of the Notice. This includes a prohibition on placing the Notice on a company letterhead.
 
Bargaining representatives: Union officials must not be nominated as a bargaining representative of an employee unless the union is entitled to represent the industrial interests of the employee.
 
Scope orders: A bargaining representative is required to take all reasonable steps to give a written notice to the other relevant bargaining representatives regarding their concerns about the scope of the agreement prior to applying for a scope order. This enables a bargaining representative to proceed with lodging a scope order application in circumstances where another bargaining representative may have been difficult to contact.
 
‘Opt out’ terms unlawful: Enterprise agreements are no longer allowed to contain a term permitting an employee to ‘opt out’ of the enterprise agreement.
 
No show of hands on votes for protected actions: The legislation now makes it clear that when the Fair Work Commission gives written directions to conduct a protected action ballot, the voting method used cannot include a ‘show of hands’. Electronic voting has been confirmed as a voting method.
 
Employee bargaining representatives have a vote: Employees representing themselves in bargaining may vote in a protected action ballot if they are members of a union that applied for the protected action ballot order.
 
Increased superannuation guarantee contribution rate: On 1 July 2013, the minimum superannuation guarantee contribution rate increased from 9 to 9.25 per cent.
 
High income threshold increase: The high income threshold increased on 1 July 2013 to $129,300, and the compensation limit for unfair dismissal increased to $64,650.
 
Concurrent leave: The amount of concurrent unpaid parental leave that a couple can take has been increased from 3 to 8 weeks and can now be taken at any time within the first 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child.
 
Right to request flexible working arrangements: The existing right to request flexible working arrangements have been extended to include employees who are:
    • parents of school age children
    • are carers
    • have a disability
    • over 55 years old; or
    • are experiencing family or domestic violence.
Consultation about changes to rosters or working hours: Employers are now required to ‘genuinely’ consult with employees regarding changes to rosters or hours of work, taking into consideration their views about the effects of the change, including their family or carer responsibilities.
 
Transfer to a safe job: The right to be transferred to a safe job while pregnant has been extended to employees with less than 12 months service. If no safe job exists, the employee is entitled to unpaid leave. Taking unpaid special maternity leave will not reduce entitlements to unpaid parental leave.
Related articles
 
For more information on the above changes, refer to these 2013 WorkplaceInfo articles:

 

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