Federal IR Bills round up

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Federal IR Bills round up

A number of proposed industrial relations laws before the Federal Parliament are at various stages of debate awaiting their demise or a green light.

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A number of proposed industrial relations laws before the Federal Parliament are at various stages of debate awaiting their demise or a green light.
 
Workplace Relations Amendment Award Simplification Bill
 
The Bill proposes:
  • reducing the list of allowable award matters;
  • reducing the scope of some existing allowable matters;
  • making explicit various matters which are not within the scope of allowable award matters;
  • incidental award provisions only be included where they are essential for the operation of the award;
  • provisions that facilitate workplace agreement making are allowable award matters;
  • machinery provisions, such the commencement date of awards, are allowable matters; and
  • exceptional matters orders only be made by a full bench of the Commission.
The Bill also proposes that transitional arrangements require the AIRC to review all awards within a period of 12 months to ascertain whether they contain provisions that may no longer be included as allowable award matters due to the amendments contained in the Bill.
 
At the end of the 12-month review period, any provision in an award that is no longer an allowable matter due to the amendments proposed in the Bill will cease to have effect.
 
Workplace Relations Amendment Choice in Award Coverage Bill
 
The Bill proposes:
  • providing all businesses with more information about their rights regarding roping-in claims;
  • restraining unions from roping small businesses, which employ no union members, into the federal jurisdiction; and
  • requiring the AIRC to inquire into the views of unrepresented small business employers potentially affected by a roping-in claim.
Workplace Relations Amendment Compliance with Court and Tribunal Orders Bill
 
The Bill proposes:
  • specifying the general duties of officers and employees of registered employer and employee organisations in relation to orders or directions from the Federal Court or the AIRC;
  • disqualifying people prescribed certain pecuniary penalty orders from holding office in registered organisations;
  • permitting the Federal Court to issue an order allowing a registered organisation to recover compensation from an officer or employee who has breached a civil penalty provision, where the organisation took reasonable steps to prevent the breach; and
  • making various consequential amendments.
Workplace Relations Amendment Fair Termination Bill
 
The Bill proposes:
  • amending the classes of employees entitled to the termination of employment provisions, such as excluding short-term casuals; and
  • a fee for lodging termination of employment applications and that the fee be indexed in line with the CPI.
Workplace Relations Amendment Improved Protection for Victorian Workers Bill
 
In light of Federal Awards Uniform Systems laws passed by the Victorian Parliament and the Federal Workplace Relation's Ministers offer to accept the referral of industrial relations powers from Victoria, as granted by the uniform systems law, it is expected that this Bill will be superseded by new legislation.
 
Workplace Relations Amendment Improved Remedies for Unprotected Action Bill
 
The Bill proposes to strengthen the AIRC's ability to stop unprotected industrial action or to prevent industrial action from occurring.
 
The AIRC will have to consider the undesirability of the unprotected action, particularly where it occurs during an existing certified agreement.
 
The AIRC will be required to hear and determine unprotected action applications as far as practicable within 48 hours. The AIRC will have the discretion to stop or prevent industrial action if the applicant cannot be heard within 48 hours.
 
The AIRC will also be able to make an interim order where industrial action is imminent and the Commission is likely to be unable to determine the application prior to the industrial action commencing.
 
Workplace Relations Amendment Protecting the Low Paid Bill
 
The Bill proposes:
  • the AIRC will give greater emphasis to the employment prospects of the low paid and the unemployed in relation to an employers capacity to pay; and
  • the primary focus of the federal award safety net will be to address the needs of the low paid.
Workplace Relations Amendment Protection for Emergency Management Volunteers Bill
 
The Bill proposes to protect emergency volunteers from unlawful dismissal.
 
An employer must not terminate an employee due to:
  • temporary absence from work due to illness or injury; and
  • race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.
It will be unlawful to dismiss an emergency volunteer who is temporarily absent from work on voluntary emergency management duty.
 
The proposed amendments would apply Australia-wide, except to employees currently excluded from access to a termination of employment remedy, such as casuals.
 
The Bill does not create an employee entitlement that requires the employer to pay the employee absent on emergency duty.
 
Workplace Relations Amendment Simplifying Agreement-Making Bill
 
In relation to Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) the Bill proposes:
  • AWAs will take effect on the date they are signed or, the date specified as the starting day or the date employment commences;
  • employees can sign AWAs at any time after receiving a copy of the information statement prepared by the Employment Advocate and an explanation of the effect of the agreement;
  • employees can withdraw consent within a cooling-off period;
  • provisions offering AWAs in the same terms to comparable employees will be removed;
  • a one step approval process will be introduced;
  • the Employment Advcoate will be able to revoke an approval or refusal of an AWA, extension agreement, variation agreement or termination agreement; and
  • an employee, or the Employment Advocate on behalf of an employee, will be allowed to recover a shortfall in entitlements in specified circumstances where an AWA or related agreement ceases to have effect; is approved with an employer action or undertakings; or was void.
In relation to certified agreements, the Bill proposes:
  • in cases where an application to certify, extend, vary or terminate a certified agreement is considered by the AIRC, no formal hearing should be held unless it is necessary;
  • removing the entitlement of employee organisations to prevent the extension, variation or termination of section 170LK agreements, while still retaining a role for such organisations where requested by a member; and
  • allowing the AIRC to certify an agreement, if the Commission is satisfied that no employee who would be covered by the agreement suffered detriment as a result of the non-recommencement.
Workplace Relations Amendment Termination of Employment Bill
 
The Bill proposes:
  • expanding the federal jurisdiction dealing with harsh, unjust or unreasonable dismissals so it covers all employees of constitutional corporations, in addition to employees currently covered under other constitutional heads of power;
  • preventing employees within the scope of the federal unfair dismissal jurisdiction from accessing remedies under comparable State unfair dismissal schemes;
  • extending the qualifying period from three to six months for small business employees;
  • permitting the dismissal, without a hearing, of applications against a small business - on the ground that the application is beyond jurisdiction or because the application is frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance;
  • refining the penalty provisions for lawyers and agents who encourage unmeritorious claims against small business;
  • streamlining the criteria for determining whether a termination by a small business employer was unfair; and
  • halving the maximum compensation payable to employees of small businesses to 3 months remuneration;
  • requiring the AIRC to have regard to conduct which contributed to the dismissal of an employee;
  • limiting dismissal claims where dismissal is for operational reasons;
  • the AIRC have regard to the safety and welfare of other employees in assessing whether a dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable;
  • the AIRC consider the size of an employer's business in determining an appropriate remedy;
  • the AIRC consider any income an employee who is to be reinstated may have earned since their dismissal, when making an order for back pay; and
  • reinstatement be the primary remedy available under the Workplace Relations Act.
Workplace Relations Amendment Fair Dismissal Bill
 
The Bill proposes:
  • preventing employees working for small business (less then 20 employees) from seeking compensation for a harsh, unjust or unreasonable termination of employment; and
  • allowing the AIRC to order that an unfair dismissal application made by a small business employee is invalid.
Workplace Relations Amendment Transmission of Business Bill
 
The Bill proposes to empower the AIRC to make orders that a certified agreement, which bound the former operator of a business, does not bind the new operator of a business or only binds the new operator to a specified extent or period.
 
Workplace Relations Amendment Secret Ballots for Protected Action
 
The Bill proposes that for industrial action to be protected it must be preceded by a secret ballot where it is agreed that the action should be taken.
 
For further information on these Bills, including parliamentary speeches and proposed amendments, go to the Parliament of Australia website and the Australian Workplace website
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