‘Final’ changes to FW Act receive assent

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‘Final’ changes to FW Act receive assent

The final round of changes to the Fair Work Act under the current government received Assent today, providing more flexible work arrangements, stricter controls on workplace bullying and protection for penalty rates.

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The final round of changes to the Fair Work Act under the current government passed through Federal Parliament today and have received Royal Assent, providing more flexible work arrangements, stricter controls on workplace bullying and protection for penalty rates.

However, if the Coalition wins the next federal election there will be pressure from employers to wind back these changes, plus other existing provisions of the Act.

Bullying

Under the amendments, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) will now be able to rule on workplace bullying matters and issue orders, but must begin dealing with matters referred to it within 14 days.

However, changes agreed to between the government and the cross bench senators mean this provision will not begin until 1 January 2014.

Other amendments to the Act mean:
    • Employees have an extended right to request flexible working arrangements. There is a ‘non-exhaustive’ list of reasonable business grounds that employers can use to refuse specific requests.
    • Employers will have to ‘genuinely consult’ with employees about changes to rosters.
    • Concurrent unpaid parental leave has been extended from three weeks to eight weeks.
    • Unions have the right to hold meetings with employees in the lunchroom unless agreement on another venue is made with the employer.
    • The FWC will be able to deal with disputes over the frequency of union entry to worksites.
    • The modern award objective has been amended so that the FWC must take into account additional remuneration for work outside normal hours.
    • There is now a 21-day time limit for both unfair dismissal and general protection claims.
‘Pragmatic’

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the FWC had been allocated an additional $21.4 million to help it deal with the new responsibility for dealing with workplace bullying claims.

Shorten described the changes as ‘modest, balanced and pragmatic’ but they have been rejected by employers as too favourable to unions.
 
Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said the legislation becoming law is a deep disappointment for the business community.
 
'These unfair and unbalanced provisions need to be repealed as soon as possible by the next Parliament,' he said.
 
'We appreciate that this Bill was inherited by the new Prime Minister and there was little time to change it, however, business would welcome his commitment to review these changes and at the very least remove the expanded union entry rights.'
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