New bid to push Fair Work amendments through

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New bid to push Fair Work amendments through

The government has introduced a bill into federal parliament today to once again try and get its Fair Work Act amendments through.

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The government has introduced a bill into federal parliament today to again try and get its Fair Work Act amendments through.

Assistant Minister for Science Karen Andrews said in her second reading speech introducing the Fair Work Amendment (Remaining 2014 Measures) Bill 2015, that, as the name suggests, the Bill re-introduces into Parliament the six remaining measures which failed to pass the Senate in the just commenced Fair Work Amendment Act 2015. The measures are unchanged from the former bill.

Andrews said the government would continue its “constructive discussions with crossbench senators” on the Bill which “will bring some balance back to the workplace”. The Bill includes the recommendations of the Fair Work Review Panel in its Towards more productive and equitable workplaces: An evaluation of the Fair Work legislation (June 2012) report.

An outline of the Bill’s proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act is set out below.

Summary

1. Annual leave

The NES is not to provide that annual leave loading is paid out with untaken annual leave on termination of employment. Modern awards and enterprise agreements may provide more beneficial terms than the NES.

2. Workers compensation/annual leave

An employee cannot take or accrue leave while absent from work and in receipt of workers’ compensation. There are currently some jurisdictions where this can occur, and some where it cannot.

3. Flexibility terms

The notice period required in modern awards and enterprise agreements to provide for unilateral termination of individual flexibility arrangements is extended to 13 weeks.

In enterprise agreements, required as a minimum, individual flexibility arrangements may deal with when work is performed, overtime rates, penalty rates, allowances and leave loading.

Benefits other than an entitlement to a payment of money may be taken into account in determining whether an employee is better off overall under an individual flexibility arrangement, and require individual flexibility arrangements to include a statement by the employee setting out why he or she believes that the arrangement meets his or her genuine needs and leaves him or her better off overall at the time of agreeing to the arrangement.

It will be a defence to an alleged contravention of a flexibility term where the employer reasonably believed that the requirements of the term were complied with at the time of agreeing to a particular individual flexibility arrangement.

In an enterprise agreement, a new requirement for the employer to ensure that any individual flexibility arrangement made under it includes a statement by the employee setting out why he or she believes, at the time of agreeing to the arrangement, that it meets his or her genuine needs and results in him or her being better off overall. 

4. Transfer of business

A transfer of business will not occur when an employee becomes employed with an associated entity of his or her former employer after seeking that employment on his or her own initiative before the termination of the employee’s employment with the old employer.

5. Right of entry

Amendments made by the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 that required an employer or occupier to facilitate transport and accommodation arrangements for permit holders exercising entry rights at work sites in remote locations are repealed.

New eligibility criteria to determine when a permit holder may enter premises for the purposes of holding discussions or conducting interviews with one or more employees or Textile, Clothing and Footwear award workers. The organisation must be covered by an enterprise agreement that applies to work performed at the premises, or, in circumstances where the organisation is not covered by an enterprise agreement it must have been invited to send a representative to the premises by an eligible person.

Repeal of amendments made by the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 relating to the default location of interviews and discussions and reinstating pre-existing rules.

Expanding the FWC’s capacity to deal with disputes about the frequency of visits to premises for discussion purposes.

6. Unfair dismissal

Subject to certain conditions, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) will not be required to hold a hearing or conduct a conference where:
  • the applicant has unreasonably failed to attend a conference or hearing, comply with an FWC direction or order, or discontinue an application after a settlement agreement has been concluded; or
  • the application is frivolous or vexatious or has no reasonable prospects of success.
See: Fair Work Amendment (Remaining 2014 Measures) Bill 2015
 
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