Fresh from the recent success at the Federal Election, the Coalition is set to commence implementing the industrial relations policy it foreshadowed prior to the election. Key changes on the agenda include amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), introducing and reviewing regulatory bodies and implementing the new Paid Parental Leave (PPL) Policy as explained below.
CHANGES TO THE FAIR WORK ACT
As reported in our May Update, the Coalition Government is proposing to make adjustments to the FW Act including new limits of protected industrial action, focusing on productivity in enterprise agreement negotiations, time limits on greenfield agreement negotiations and easier access to individual flexibility arrangements (IFAs).
In addition, the Coalition is expected to introduce changes to the impending bullying claims jurisdiction which is due to commence in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on 1 January 2014. Specifically, the Coalition has foreshadowed that workers should be required to seek assistance from a independent agency (for example, a safety regulator) before lodging a bullying claim with the FWC to address the potential overload of claims the FWC is expected to receive. Further, the Coalition wishes to expand the new bullying jurisdiction to cover the conduct of union officials towards workers and employers.
Additional changes to the FW Act could also be on the Coalition's agenda, but they are expected to follow recommendations from the Productivity Commission.
The Coalition also intends to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and proposes to review the Federal Government's Building Code and Supporting Guidelines to ensure consistency with state building codes.
The Coalition has also indicated that it intends to establish a Registered Organisations Commission to be tasked as the "watchdog" to ensure compliance for unions and employer organisations.
Meanwhile, the Coalition will review whether there is justification for retaining the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), a specialist regulator introduced by the former Labor Government.
NEW PAID PARENTAL LEAVE SCHEME
As reported in our August Update, the Coalition Government committed during its election campaign to introduce a new PPL Policy due to commence on 1 July 2015, that will see the PPL increased from 18 weeks' PPL at the minimum wage to 26 weeks' PPL at the actual wage (subject to a cap).
Next Step for Employers
It's too early to predict the timing of these changes, but given the Federal Parliament is unlikely to re-convene until late-October or early-November 2013, we doubt there is sufficient time to implement the above measures by the end of this year, especially in light of other non-IR election promises. We will keep you updated as developments come to light.