The Coalition’s election victory will see a number of changes to key employment and industrial relations policies and issues.
The Coalition has proposed limited changes to Labor’s Fair Work framework in its first term. In its publication “The Coalition’s Policy to Improve the Fair Work Laws” published in May 2013, the Coalition set out a number of IR policies it will seek to implement in the following areas:
- Anti-bullying: Labor’s recent amendments to the Fair Work Act regarding anti-bullying will be maintained, subject to the “worker” who is claiming bullying first seeking preliminary help, advice or assistance from an independent regulator before making an application to the Fair Work Commission (FWC). The amendments will be expanded to include conduct of union officials towards workers and employers.
- Adverse action: The Coalition will seek to make it clear that the central consideration about the reason for adverse action is the subjective intention of the person taking the alleged adverse action.
- Paid parental leave: From 1 July 2015, mothers will be provided with 26 weeks’ paid parental leave at the greater of the mother’s actual wage or the national minimum wage, plus statutory superannuation, up to an annual $150,000 salary cap (i.e. $75,000). The scheme will be administered by the Family Assistance Office (instead of by the employer) and paid directly to the employee.
- Superannuation: Labor’s proposed increases to compulsory employer contributions will be delayed for 2 years.
- Unfair dismissal: The FWC will be given clearer powers to dismiss proceedings for circumstances including non-attendance by the applicant without holding a hearing.
- Individual flexibility agreements (IFAs): The Coalition will seek to remove the ability for unions to restrict the use of IFAs in enterprise agreements and will maintain Labor’s proposed extension to the notice period for terminating IFAs from 4 weeks to 13 weeks.
- Small business employers: Small businesses may be granted immunity from Fair Work Ombudsman pecuniary penalty prosecutions if the employer pays or applies the wrong employment conditions, provided the error was not deliberate and the employer has previously sought advice and help from the Fair Work Ombudsman on the same issue.
The Coalition has also committed to turn back the clock on right of entry; introduce stricter rules for protected action; amend greenfields bargaining; create an independent appeal jurisdiction; establish a registered organisations regulator; abolish the FWBC and bring back the ABCC; and “urgently” review the future of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. It is likely that the Coalition government will also make appointments to the FWC and boards.
The above proposed changes, if implemented by the Coalition government, are likely to affect most businesses. All employers should make sure that management is aware of these upcoming changes and when necessary make sure that management is trained in their requirements.
If you have any questions regarding the proposed changes outlined above, do not hesitate to contact us.