Under new legislation which took effect at the end of January, bargaining representatives (whether acting for employers, peak bodies or unions) are now required to disclose any personal financial benefits arising from enterprise agreements before they are voted on.
The purpose of these disclosure documents is to help workers, employers and other stakeholders track the revenue an enterprise agreement will generate for unions and for any other bargaining representative.
Which benefits should be disclosed?
The benefits which must be disclosed include those which will be received by individuals connected to any bargaining representative. The benefits could include:
- payments to a training funds controlled by a bargaining organisation;
- commissions earned for employees signing up to insurance schemes;
- director, management and brokerage fees;
- dividends; or
- trust and share distributions.
In terms of disclosing benefits, bargaining representatives are now required to provide a high level of detail including:
- itemising the benefits which will be received;
- describing the nature and amount of each benefit; and
- naming the beneficiaries.
The penalties for failure to comply
Employers involved in enterprise agreement negotiations should be aware of these new requirements and ensure they do not fall afoul of any disclosure obligations. Failure to comply with the new disclosure requirements could lead to penalties of up to $12,600 for individuals, or $63,000 for bodies corporate.
However, an enterprise agreement may still be approved even if the disclosure requirements are not strictly adhered to.
What shall employers do?
Where an employer is required to disclose any personal financial benefits, it must ensure that all relevant employees have received the document by the end of the fourth day of the access period for the agreement. Employers must give access to or provide a copy of the document (by that time) and ensure continued access to it for the remainder of the access period.
An employer should also ask any other bargaining representatives involved in the negotiation to comply with their obligations, and consider drawing any benefits which are disclosed to the attention of their employees for their consideration prior to voting taking place on any proposed agreement.