How the Government will amend WorkChoices legislation

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How the Government will amend WorkChoices legislation

The Liberal and National Party joint party room meeting last night agreed to a number of amendments to the WorkChoices Bill currently before the Senate.

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The Liberal and National Party joint party room meeting last night agreed to a number of amendments to the WorkChoices Bill currently before the Senate.


Kevin Andrews, the Minister for Workplace Relations, said the amendments reflect the recommendations of the majority report of the Senate inquiry and also take account of the issue raised by the ACTU on payment of wages and salaries.


The key amendments the Government intends to move when the Bill reaches the committee stage during the Senate debate are:


Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard 

  • Ensure that employees engaged on the basis of a fixed number of hours per week (e.g. 38 hours) including where those hours are averaged, are paid at least that number of fixed hours, irrespective of the number of hours actually worked that week. However, employees would not be paid for periods of unauthorised absence or industrial action. [as recommended by the Senate Committee];

  • Ensure that an employee who is engaged for a specified number of hours per week is guaranteed to accrue leave entitlements based on that fixed number of hours, regardless of the number of hours actually worked (ie 4 weeks leave for full time employees) [as recommended by the Senate Committee];

  • Existing award provisions for the timing of payment of wages provisions will be protected. To protect employees who are not covered by an award or agreement, or not otherwise covered by State legislation on payment of wages, a default payment mechanism has been included guaranteeing payment under the Fair Pay and Conditions Standard on a fortnightly basis, in arrears;

  • Hours – averaging will be removed from the default arrangements (which has caused some concern) but the bill will allow averaging periods of up to 12 months under an award or agreement (includes contract of employment). Unless an averaging agreement is in place, any hours in excess of 38 hours will be regarded as additional hours and subject to the reasonable additional hours provision [as recommended by the Senate Committee];

  • 93A – definition of ‘medical practitioner’ in relation to who can issue a medical certificate – change label to ‘health practitioner’ to make clear it covers chiropractors, etc;

  • Medical certificates – statutory declaration as an alternative to a medical certificate where it is not practical to obtain a medical certificate.

Public Holidays 

  • An employee is entitled to a day off on a public holiday, although the employer may ask the employee to work. The employee may refuse to work provided the employee has reasonable grounds for refusing.   

  • An employer may not dismiss an employee or otherwise alter the employee to his/her prejudice for reasons including that he/she reasonably refused to work on a public holiday.

Agreements

  • Change maximum term of union greenfields agreement to five years;

  • Clarify the provision that an AWA as a condition of employment is not duress applies to prospective employees only;

  • Clarify that notice can only be given after nominal expiry date for unilateral termination on 90 days notice [as recommended by the Senate Committee].

Apprentices and trainees 

  • Regulation-making power to widen scope for awards and agreements to override State and Territory laws in relation to apprenticeship and traineeship (provisions do not currently refer specifically to traineeships) [as recommended by the Senate Committee];

  • treat traineeships on the same basis as apprenticeships [as recommended by the Senate Committee].

Termination of Employment 

  • Grouping provision for unfair dismissal to prevent companies restructuring to become less than 100 (based on section 50 of the Corporations Law);

  • Extending time for election to proceed to bring Court proceedings for unlawful termination matters from 7 days to 28 days  to accommodate the new $4000 financial assistance scheme.

Outworkers

  • ensure that existing outworker provisions in both federal and state awards (where they translate into the federal system) are mandatory content in agreements and cannot be bargained away;

  • outworker provisions in State law will not be excluded by WorkChoices;

  • technical amendments to ensure that all entities currently bound by awards that contain outworker protections continue to be bound and enable additional parties to be bound by outworker provisions in awards to prevent ‘gaps’ opening up in outworker protection.

337 amendments delivered just before debate

 

The Howard Government’s 337 amendments to its WorkChoices legislation were given to the Opposition today just 40 minutes before the Senate went into Committee to deal with them.

 

The committee stage will last until 11.30pm tonight and then for another 90 minutes tomorrow.

 

A supplementary explanatory memorandum on the amendments is expected to be available later today.

 

See: Explanatory Memorandum
 

Related

Federal Government's IR legislative agenda 2005 

 

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