Federal sacking bill up for debate today


Federal sacking bill up for debate today

Proposed legislation to tighten termination laws are expected to be debated in the Senate for the first time this afternoon.


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Proposed legislation to tighten termination laws are expected to be debated in the Senate for the first time this afternoon.

After being pushed to the back of the Senate debate queue during the last session of Federal Parliament, the Federal Workplace Relations Termination of Employment Bill is now on the front burner.

A spokesperson for the Australian Democrats refused to comment on what stance the Democrats would take in the debate, except to say they would be putting forward amendments.

The Democrats expected the debate to be drawn out.

Shadow Workplace Relations Minister, Craig Emerson told WorkplaceInfo the ALP would be opposing the Bill outright this afternoon - they wouldn’t be having ‘a bar of it’.

The ALP was not in favour of the Commonwealth taking over from the other jurisdictions when it came to termination of employment, he said.

Nor were the ALP in favour of weakening the rights of workers to a fair termination.

The Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott told WorkplaceInfo the Bill was a good Bill and he expected it would be supported. He had no further comment.

As this is the first time the Bill will be debated in the Senate it has one more opportunity to go back to the House of Representatives before it ends up on the double dissolution trigger scrap heap.

The contentious Bill seeks to achieve the following:

  • 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;
  • halving the maximum compensation payable to employees of small businesses to three 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 to have regard to the safety and welfare of other employees in assessing whether a dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable;
  • the AIRC to consider the size of an employer's business in determining an appropriate remedy;
  • the AIRC to 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.
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