The Queensland Government has taken the first step to reverse key components of the Newman Government changes to industrial relations, employment and safety law in Queensland. On 7 May 2015, the Industrial Relations (Restoring Fairness) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (Bill) was introduced to State Parliament. The Bill was passed with amendments on 4 June 2015 (Amending Act). The Amending Act implements the first stage of the Government's industrial reform.

This update summarises the content and effect of the Amending Act on the Industrial Relations Act 1999 (Qld) (IR Act) and what Queensland public sector and local government employers should do to prepare.

What does this mean for Queensland public sector and local government employers?

Award Modernisation

Prepare for more award changes if you are covered by one of the ten modern awards made under the award modernisation process initiated by the former Government. Expect the Commission to remove the previously 'required content' provisions about consultation, dispute resolution and individual flexibility arrangements and reinstate the previously 'non-allowable' provisions including contracting, job security, union encouragement and right of entry.

Pre-modernisation awards will continue to operate until they are modernised under the amended framework. However, the provisions currently deemed 'of no effect' in pre-modernised awards like contracting, job security and organisational change will be operative again.

Modernisation has been suspended from 17 March 2015 but will resume under the amended framework. Variations to existing modern awards which were implemented under the previous government are to be actioned first.

Certified agreements

Prepare for more bargaining if your certified agreement is one of seven agreements made under the existing framework. The Amending Act provides for new nominal expiry dates for these seven agreements set at three months after the variation date of the underlying modern award. These employers should reconvene their bargaining teams and prepare for further negotiation, determine financial parameters, as well as decide what of the previously 'non-allowable' provisions they are prepared to include in their certified agreements (if any).

Provisions in certified agreements which are currently deemed 'of no effect' will be operative again.

High income guarantee contracts

The Amending Act repeals the provisions of the IR Act which create high income positions and high income guarantee contracts.

  • The contract continues and has contractual force at common law;
  • Any awards or agreements that previously applied will apply again; and
  • The 'excluded provisions' once again apply to an employee who is employed pursuant to the contract.

Right of entry

Expect that industrial officers will enter workplaces to inspect time and wages records and speak to members without notice. WHS entry permit holders will also be permitted to enter workplaces for suspected safety breaches without notice.

Preparing for the roll-back

State system employers should review their policies and procedures, as well as any industrial processes underway (including restructuring and outsourcing) and consider how these will need to change when provisions currently deemed 'of no effect' are re-enlivened.

A recap - the IR Act from December 2013

The Newman Government made extensive amendments to the IR Act in 2012 and 2013. Relevantly to the Amending Act those amendments:

  • created a regime for modernisation of industrial instruments;
  • deemed particular provisions of industrial instruments 'of no effect' (which effectively took a 'red pen' to the these clauses);
  • provided a 24-hour notice regime for right of entry. 

What does the amending act do?

For a detailed analysis of what applies now, and what will apply in the future, click here