FW Act changes ‘disappointing’ — must be passed: employers


FW Act changes ‘disappointing’ — must be passed: employers

Employers have called the first round of changes to the Fair Work Act ‘very disappointing’ but have called for them to be passed quickly.


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Employers have called the first round of changes to the Fair Work Act ‘very disappointing’ but have called for them to be passed quickly.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten introduced the Fair Work Review Bill to parliament yesterday.

It will put some restrictions on unfair dismissal claims, rename the tribunal as the Fair Work Commission and clarify some matters relating to enterprise agreements.

Misses important issues
Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) said the changes were ‘useful’ but did not address the most important issues.

He said the big priorities for employers included:
  • defining (more tightly) the issues that can be the subject of bargaining claims
  • stopping unions holding employers to ransom over greenfields agreements for new projects
  • implementing a more effective framework for Individual Flexibility Arrangements and fixing the poorly drafted general protections and transfer of business laws.
Very disappointing
‘The Fair Work Act Amendment Bill 2012 does not deal with any of these vital issues and this is very disappointing,’ Willox said.

‘Parliament should move quickly to pass the Bill so that the most important issues can be focused upon.’

Shorten told Parliament that the the integrity of the unfair dismissal application and hearing process would be improved by:
  • aligning the time frames for making unfair dismissal claims and general protections dismissal claims at 21 days
  • implementing the review recommendations relating to costs orders where a party to an unfair dismissal matter has caused the other party to the matter to incur costs by an unreasonable act or omission. This recommendation reflects the Review panel’s concern that unscrupulous lawyers or agents are encouraging dismissed employees to pursue unfair dismissal claims without merit on a no-win, no-fee basis
  • providing the Fair Work Commission with discretion to dismiss applications in certain circumstances, such as when the applicant, without any reasonable explanation or excuse, fails to attend a hearing or comply with an order made by the Commission or has failed to discontinue an application after a settlement agreement has been concluded.
The Act will also allow for the appointment of two vice-president positions and the appointment of the general manager at the nomination of the president.

It will allow for the appointment of acting commissioners and for certain matters to be referred to a Full Bench or dealt with by the president in certain circumstances.

The Bill will implement several technical and clarifying recommendations made by the Review Panel, including:
  • prohibiting opt-out clauses in enterprise agreements
  • clarifying that statutory enterprise agreements cannot be made with a single employee
  • clarifying notification requirements for scope order applications
  • clarifying what may be included in a notice of representative rights to employees
  • prohibiting an individual union official being a bargaining representative of an employee where the union does not have coverage
  • clarifying when a modern award variation application can be struck out and who can apply for a modern award to be varied
  • clarifying how protected action ballots can be conducted, while preserving the existing strict requirements and processes around when protected industrial action can be taken.

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