HR wants ‘clarity and certainty’ in employment standards

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HR wants ‘clarity and certainty’ in employment standards

HR practitioners want the Rudd Government’s proposed new National Employment Standards to be in plain English and to restore certainty.

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HR practitioners want the Rudd Government’s proposed new National Employment Standards to be in plain English and to restore certainty.

The 10 standards, together with a new set of modernised awards and other changes to the IR system, will result in the establishment of Fair Work Australia on 1 January 2010, and replace WorkChoices laws as the safety net for the Australian workforce.

The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) submission on the NES follows a survey of its membership.

‘Work effectively’

In the context that HR practitioners are charged with responsibility for maintaining productive harmony in the workforce, 71% of the survey respondents thought the Government’s workplace relations approach could 'be expected to work effectively'.

However, they also expressed a number of concerns, including the following:

  • The standards need to be true minimums, reflect community standards, be updated regularly and have national coverage.
  • The AIRC needs to ensure that the creation of the modern awards, with which the Commission is charged, will be appropriately integrated with the standards.
  • The standards and the modern awards need to avoid being cumbersome and unnecessarily complex.
  • While striving for flexibility, the standards need to be simple and definitive where possible, mindful that terms which are too open to interpretation are also open to misinterpretation.
  • Given the scope of the term ‘reasonable business grounds’ in the standards, it should be defined.
  • The standard proposing 38 maximum weekly working hours needs to take into account businesses that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • To ensure employers take seriously the need for parents’ flexible working arrangements, 83% of respondents agreed that performance indicators should be created to measure success.
  • It needs to be clear whether the new standards will override ‘bargained outcomes’ arising from individual workplace agreements that remain in place after 1 January 2010.

AHRI said a number of respondents expressed difficulty in commenting on the proposed new standards in the absence of an unfair dismissal regime and the proposed modern awards.


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