2005 saw massive IR changes in Victoria

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2005 saw massive IR changes in Victoria

2005 has been a big year in workplace relations for Victoria. The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry has provided the following summary of the major activities of the year and their effect on employers:

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2005 has been a big year in workplace relations for Victoria. The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry has provided the following summary of the major activities of the year and their effect on employers:

WorkChoices

The recent passage through Federal Parliament of the ‘WorkChoices’ legislation was the climax of a year of enormous change in workplace relations regulation, particularly for employers in Victoria.

Many of these changes have presented additional challenges for employers, particularly in terms of understanding the implications for their business and the options and opportunities they might provide.

‘Common Rule’ award coverage

2005 began with the reintroduction of common rule award coverage in Victoria, which extended new employment regulation across large sections of the Victorian workforce. These changes added additional cost and complexity for many Victorian employers, particularly in the service sector, and in regional areas.

Occupational health and safety

In the middle of 2005 there were sweeping changes to Victoria’s occupational health and safety laws, based on the findings of the Maxwell report. The first major overhaul of the OH&S Act since 1985, these changes included substantial increases in fines and penalties, new criminal offences, the creation of extended rights and duties, and new trade union ‘right-of-entry’ entitlements.

Some elements of this package remain to be implemented, including new employer consultation obligations, which begin to apply from the start of 2006.

Owner drivers and forestry contractors

The State Government passed legislation during 2005 setting new standards for owner-drivers and forestry contractors operating in the transport industry. This will also be an ongoing issue in the New Year as industry councils are still to be formally established.

Workplace privacy

The Victorian Law Reform Commission handed its report to the State Government setting out its recommendations for the regulation of the use of surveillance, tracking, and other monitoring devices in Victorian workplaces. The Industrial Relations Minister, Rob Hulls, has indicated that the Government is keen to legislate in this area in the New Year, preferably in conjunction with the other States if agreement can be reached on a national approach.

Workplace Rights Advocate

In response to the Federal ‘WorkChoices’ package, the State Government legislated to establish a Workplace Rights Advocate for Victoria. The new appointee will be available to provide advice to employees (and to employers) about the new framework and what it entails.

The Advocate will also be required to report to State Government on the impact of the changes on the Victorian workforce and the Victorian economy generally. To date, no one has been appointed to this new position.

Long service leave entitlements

Enhanced long service leave benefits for employees begin to apply in Victoria from 1 January 2006. They include the right to take leave after 10 years instead of 15, and to receive pro rate entitlements after seven years, instead of 10. New leave entitlements are also available for casual employees.

Work and Family changes

A series of changes are also now flowing into awards giving employees additional maternity or paternity leave rights. These changes give employees the ‘right to request’ to extend parental leave from 12 months to a maximum of 24 months, and to request to return to work from parental leave on a part-time basis until the child reaches school age.

Related

State Governments' reaction to Federal IR agenda
 

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