The Western Australian State Government has resisted transferring IR powers to the Commonwealth but proposed greater consistency with the Fair Work Act under draft IR law changes.

The Western Australian Government has released its draft Labour Relations Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill 2012 (WA) for public comment.

The draft bill will principally amend the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) (IR Act). This impacts employers that are regulated under the WA State IR system and will not affect employers that are ‘national system employers’ under the federal Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act).

The draft bill proposes to repeal the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993 (WA) and the Termination, Change and Redundancy General Order of the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission (Commission), and instead include minimum conditions of employment and redundancy provisions in the IR Act.

The draft bill also proposes to broadly harmonise the unfair dismissal provisions contained in the IR Act with the FW Act provisions. The amendments include:

  • the introduction of factors to assess whether the dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable;
  • the introduction of threshold minimum employment periods before employees are able to access the protection of unfair dismissal laws (12 months for small businesses and six months for other businesses);
  • the prevention of certain employees from accessing unfair dismissal laws, including fixed term or task employees who are terminated at the end of the fixed term or task, and employees who have been terminated due to genuine redundancy;
  • the prevention of awards of compensation for shock, distress or humiliation from unfair dismissal; and
  • the reduction of the time period for employees to make a claim for unfair dismissal from 28 days to 21 days.

The draft bill also provides for the introduction of an award modernisation process to be undertaken by the Commission in relation to all State private sector awards. The bill proposes that this process is to be completed within 12 months of the commencement of the legislation, after consultation with interested parties. It also provides for all awards to be reviewed every four years.

Other proposed changes include:

  • the requirement of employers to provide employees with payslips;
  • broadly harmonising the right of entry provisions in the IR Act with the FW Act;
  • amendments to more closely align the powers of industrial inspectors in the IR Act with the powers contained in the FW Act; and
  • an increase of the maximum penalties for contraventions of industrial instruments, orders and statutory minimum conditions of employment.

Interested parties are to provide written submissions in relation to the proposed bill by 13 January 2012.