Workplace relations bill: details of the agreement 13/11/96

Analysis

Workplace relations bill: details of the agreement 13/11/96

In today’s HR Link, we outline the consequences of the Government/Democrat agreement on the federal award system.

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In today’s HR Link, we outline the consequences of the Government/Democrat agreement on the federal award system.

One of the most significant reforms proposed under the original Bill (Workplace Relations Bill 1996) was to reduce federal awards to 18 allowable matters. All other matters will have to be determined through enterprise bargaining.

In this way, federal awards were to operate as safety nets for a system which was to be focussed on enterprise bargaining. This system of awards as safety nets has been maintained under the agreement between the Government and the Democrats, however there are a number of important changes to the original proposal.

The proposal to reduce awards down to 18 allowable items has been modified to include provisions dealing with outworkers and superannuation.

Part-time work provisions in award will have to ensure that part-time workers enjoy pro-rata conditions in comparison with the relevant full-time employees and reasonably predictable working hours.

Leave provisions in awards will also include an entitlement to ‘cultural leave’. The explanatory memorandum cites ceremonial leave for persons of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent as an example of ‘cultural leave’.

In addition, the Commission will be able to arbitrate in exceptional circumstances to settle disputes in relation to the future handling of non-allowable matters. The Commission, in these circumstances, must however be satisfied that the party seeking the order has genuinely attempted to reach agreement, that there is no reasonable prospect of the matter being conciliated, that the circumstances are specific to the enterprise, industry or award concerned and that it is in the public interest to make the order as requested.

In effect, this provision may allow unions, provided they have genuinely but unsuccessfully attempted to reach an agreement, to expand the contents of a particular award. Note however that an exceptional matter order can only deal with a single matter, and that the order can only last for two years.

The award parties will have 18 months of the legislation commencing within which to simplify their award. Failure to do so will place an obligation on the Commission to reduce the award in conformity with the 20 allowable matters.

 

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