Coalition wins: now for the policies


Coalition wins: now for the policies

As the Coalition prepares to take over government, following its decisive win at Saturday’s Federal Election, parts of its workplace relations policy will likely see immediate action while other aspects are likely to be put into the ‘wait and see’ basket.


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As the Coalition prepares to take over government, following its decisive win at Saturday’s Federal Election, parts of its workplace relations policy will likely see immediate action while other aspects are likely to be put into the ‘wait and see’ basket, especially with the balance of power in the Senate now in the hands of a number of previously unknown minor parties.

Anti-bullying provisions

Reforms to the Fair Work Act 2009 will mean, from 1 January 2014, that workers who reasonably believe they have been bullied at work will be able to make an application to the Commission for help to resolve the bullying. See previous story.

Coalition wants additional steps

While the Coalition has indicated in-principle support for the anti-bullying provisions, its stance has been that further steps should be taken to prevent the Commission from being ‘swamped with claims that may be capable of otherwise being easily resolved’.

The party will likely introduce a new requirement for workers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to resolve their bullying concerns before elevating them to a proceeding before the Commission. Specifically, a worker will have to seek preliminary help and impartial advice from an independent regulator; but, if their concerns thereafter remain unresolved, they will be free to make a claim to the Commission.

In addition, the Coalition has indicated the provisions should be amended to ensure union officials who engage in workplace bullying managers, employers and workers are held to account.

Parental leave

The Coalition repeatedly said during the election campaign that its Paid Parental Leave scheme of 26 weeks paid parental leave at the greater of the full replacement wage or the national minimum wage, plus superannuation would be implemented. However, widespread doubt remains about the affordability and equity of the policy, and most commentators are predicting that the scheme will be wound back.

Industrial relations

Industrial relations predictably will be where the major area of conflict will arise between the Coalition’s policies and unions. Touch points will be:
    • winding back of union right-of-entry provisions
    • re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission
    • Registered Organisations (unions) and their officials to be regulated in the same manner as the corporations law, along with a new Registered Organisations Commission
    • enterprise agreements will not be able to restrict the use of Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFAs), although the Coalition maintains that this is not a reintroduction of AWAs.
    • new time frames for Greenfields agreements — negotiations must be completed within three months of commencing
    • amendments to protected industrial action so that the Fair Work Commission must be satisfied that there have been ‘genuine and meaningful’ talks between the parties
    • urgent review of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal for the trucking industry (the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will stay).
The Fair Work Act

The Coalition has said it will implement a number of recommendations from the Fair Work Act Review, which the Labor government ignored when it amended the Fair Work Act this year:
    • clarify the interaction between workers compensation and annual leave (s130) (Recommendation 2)
    • an employer and employee must hold a meeting to discuss a request for extended parental leave unless the employer has already agreed to the request (Recommendation 3)
    • clarify, and ‘restore the conventionally accepted approach’ to payment of annual leave loading upon termination (Recommendation 6)
    • expedite the development of a national long service leave standard (Recommendation 7) — to develop such a standard will take some negotiations with the states, given the different entitlements that apply
    • change the better off overall test (BOOT) to account for non-monetary benefits (Recommendation 9)
    • clarify defences for alleged breaches of flexibility terms in IFAs (Recommendation 11)
    • change the notification to terminate flexibility arrangements from 28 days to 90 days (Recommendation 12)
    • clarify the interaction of model flexibility terms in enterprise agreements (Recommendation 24)
    • better monitor the application of the BOOT (Recommendation 25)
    • clarify transfer of business laws applying to workers who transfer voluntarily (Recommendation 38)
    • clearer powers for the FWC to dismiss proceedings due to non-attendance of a party (Recommendation 43)
    • clarify the central consideration about the reason for adverse action is the subjective intention of the person taking the adverse action (Recommendation 47).
Workplace Ombudsman
Less contentious Coalition policies include:
    • more practical help to small businesses from the Workplace Ombudsman, including a possibility of indemnity from prosecution if the employer makes an unintentional error and had previously sought advice from the Ombudsman’s office
    • underpaid workers to receive interest on back-paid entitlements recovered through the Workplace Ombudsman.


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