Employers told to ‘keep up’ with IR law changes

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Employers told to ‘keep up’ with IR law changes

Employers with workers on AWAs will need to keep up with the changes to IR laws so they know what to do when they run out, a Sydney conference has been told.

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Employers with workers on AWAs will need to keep up with the changes to IR laws so they know what to do when they run out, a Sydney conference has been told.

Industrial lawyer Cameron Nichol, of the law firm TressCox, told the 8th Annual Employment Law Intensive that he understood that the basic themes of the workplace relations laws as they are now will be mirrored by what will come into operation on 1 January 2010, when Fair Work Australia begins.

Nevertheless, the issue of AWAs will have to be dealt with. No new AWAs have been allowed since 27 March this year, but those signed before them have up to five years in operation - depending on what is in the AWA.

Nichol said that employers would ‘have to keep up to date’ so they knew what to do when their AWAs expired.

Options

He said current options included keeping AWAs until they expired or converting them to ITEAs.

Nichol said ITEAs could be used to get around awards as long as they satisfy the no-disadvantage test (NDT).

He said a ‘disadvantage’ occurred when workers don’t know what they’ve signed away and have received no compensation for the loss.

Nichol warned that ITEAs were only for new employees or for employees where employers had at least one worker on an AWA as at 1 December 2007. He pointed out that employers could not sack workers for the purpose of rehiring them on ITEAs.

Benefits of ITEAs

The benefits of ITEAs were:

  • they can remove award conditions such as penalty rates or rostering issues

  • employees can cash out two weeks annual leave

  • they don’t involve a union.

The disadvantage was the cost and the disruption of the workforce in bringing them in but, as soon as this is overcome, the ITEAs would work well.

On the NDT, Nichol pointed out that a collective agreement would not qualify if it disadvantaged one or more employee.

Default option — common law contracts

Regarding common law contracts, Nichol said these were the ‘default option’ and in some cases could be the best option, though he expected large companies would prefer collective agreements, which the small ones went for ITEAs or contracts.

He said employers should be aware of both the express and implied terms when dealing with common law contracts.


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