Labor’s first IR Bill - the implications

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Labor’s first IR Bill - the implications

Yesterday (13 February 2008) the Federal Government tabled its Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008 in Parliament. This legislation is designed to start the transition to the Government’s new national workplace relations system, which is due to come fully into effect by 1 January 2010.

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Source: Dick Grozier, Director of Industrial Relations, Australian Business Industrial

Yesterday (13 February 2008) the Federal Government tabled its Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008 in Parliament. This legislation is designed to start the transition to the Government’s new national workplace relations system, which is due to come fully into effect by 1 January 2010.

Until the Bill is passed and comes into effect nothing is changed.

Federal system employers

Federal system employers continue under the Workplace Relations Act 1996. The consequences of this include:

  • Employers and employees can continue to make collective agreements and AWAs and lodge them with the Workplace Authority Director as before. Agreements altering 'protected award conditions' are subject to the 'fairness test'.
  • Unfair dismissal and unlawful dismissal provisions remain unchanged. Businesses employing no more than 100 employees are exempt from the unfair dismissal provisions.
  • The Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard applies and underpins collective agreements and AWAs, federal awards and NAPSAs. Pay rates remain unchanged (pay scales may increase in October following a review by the Australian Fair Pay Commission).
  • Federal Act right-of-entry provisions apply unaltered.

State system employers

State system employers remain in the state system as before. The consequences of this include:

  • State awards and agreements (or transitional awards and pre-reform certified agreements) continue to apply as they did yesterday and the state enterprise bargaining provisions continue. Agreements must be lodged with the state Commission for approval.
  • State unfair dismissal and unfair contract provisions continue to apply. There is no exemption from the unfair dismissal provisions for businesses of any size. Federal unlawful termination provisions continue to apply.
  • State award rates and conditions remain unchanged. (Rates and allowances may start to increase from mid-July because of a state wage case.)
  • State right-of-entry provisions apply unaltered.

What does the Bill do?

If the Bill passes in its current form, and this is not guaranteed, it will:

  • prohibit making new AWAs from the date the legislation comes into effect;
  • allow employers who employ one or more employees under AWAs to continue to make Individual Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs) until 2010 for new employees, and existing employees who want them, subject to a broader 'no-disadvantage' test;
  • require new agreements (ITEAs and collective agreements) for existing employees to pass the 'no-disadvantage' test before coming into operation (greenfields agreements and ITEAs covering new employees will commence when lodged with the Workplace Authority Director);
  • remove the requirement to issue employees with the Workplace Relations Fact Sheet; and
  • start the process of award modernisation and simplification, due to come into operation by 1 January 2010.


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