Victorian regime takes shape

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Victorian regime takes shape

Having considered the Report and Recommendations of the Victorian Industrial Relations Taskforce (reported in HR Link 1) the Victorian Government responded by introducing the Fair Employment Bill 2000 into the Victorian Legislative Assembly on 25 October 2000.

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Having considered the Report and Recommendations of the Victorian Industrial Relations Taskforce (reported in HR Link 1) the Victorian Government responded by introducing the Fair Employment Bill 2000 into the Victorian Legislative Assembly on 25 October 2000. The Bill was read a second time on 26 October 2000.

According to the Victorian Premier, the Bill is a result of a comprehensive consultative process that looked into developing a fair system to govern Victorian workplaces that are not covered by federal awards or agreements. The principal object of the Bill is to provide a framework for fair employment standards that support both economic prosperity and social justice. There are two key elements of the new fair employment system:

  1. It maintains the current unitary system of industrial relations in Victoria for agreement making, unfair dismissals and freedom of association.

  2. It replaces the Schedule 1Asafety net of five minimum conditions contained in the Workplace Relations Act 1996(Cth), for Victorian employees not covered by a federal award or agreement.

Coverage

The general focus of the Fair Employment System will be upon those employers and employees who are not protected by federal awards or agreements. The administrating body of the system, the Fair Employment Tribunal (FET), will also have jurisdiction to determine whether or not a class of persons working as contractors would be more appropriately regarded as employees.

Minimum standards

The centrepeice of the Bill is a new legislative safety net of standards for Victorian employees not covered by federal awards or agreements. It is proposed that these employees be entitled to minimum standards relating to:

  • annual leave;

  • personal leave (sick and carer's leave);

  • bereavement leave;

  • parental leave;

  • long service leave;

  • hours of work provisions;

  • public holiday entitlements

  • notice provisions in termination of employment cases; and

  • a general requirement to consult with employees over workplace changes that will

  • impinge upon security of employment.

     

      The Bill also proposes providing long-term casual employees with access to unpaid carer's, bereavement and parental leave. The Bill defines a long-term casual employee as one who has been employed for at least 12 months on a regular and systematic basis.

      Industry sector conditions

      It is proposed that a Full Bench of the FET be empowered to declare, vary or set aside conditions of employment specific to a declared industry sector. The existing 18 industry sectors defined by s489of the Workplace Relations Act 1996(Cth) would be maintained until the FET has the capacity to amend, vary or add to the sectors on an industry or occupational basis.

      In determining whether to make an industry sector condition of employment, the FET will be bound to consider whether a suitable federal award applies to the relevant employees. Excluded from the application of industry sector orders will be those employees whose remuneration exceeds a designated amount. That amount will be linked to the annual remuneration limit for accessing a remedy for an unfair dismissal of a federal non-award employee - this is currently $71,200.

      Grievance resolution and mediation powers

      In addressing and resolving employment related grievances, the FET must be satisfied that the grievances relate to how the terms and conditions of employment under the Actor an industry sector order apply to an employee. Prior to approaching the FET parties will be required under the proposed Bill to have made a genuine attempt to resolve the grievance. Thereafter, it is envisaged that conciliation and mediation powers would be exercise prior to the FET arbitrating the grievance.

      Small claims

      In addition to resolving employment related grievances the FET will also provide a small claims jurisdiction for remuneration or entitlements owing. Monetary remedies in this regard, it is proposed, would not exceed a specified limit (it is currently $20,000). Independent contractors will also have access to the small claims jurisdiction to recover their contractual entitlements.

      Unfair contracts

      The Fair Employment Bill 2000 also empowers the FET to review contracts for service that are alleged to be unfair. The Bill defines an unfair contract as one that is harsh, unconscionable or unfair; is contrary to the public interest; or provides for remuneration less than the person would have been entitled to as an employee under the Act, an industry sector order, a federal award or agreement. The Bill is also clear in identifying that a contract may become unfair either at the time it is entered into or at a later period.

      Registered Organisations and right of access

      The Bill makes provision to simply recognise organisations that are registered under the federal Workplace Relations Act 1996(Cth) for the purposes of the fair employment system. A recognised organisation would then be able to appear before the FET in matters affecting members or eligible members.

      In addition, authorised representatives of organisations would be afforded the same right of access into workplaces covered by the Victorian Act as currently applies for those workplaces governed by federal awards and agreements under the federal Act.

      The Premier commended the Bill to the House and debate over the Bill was adjourned until Thursday 9 November 2000.

       

       

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