For the last few months, we have been following the progress of the amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“Act”) and on 27 June, the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 passed both Houses of Parliament, becoming the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 (“Amendment Act”) and receiving Royal Assent the next day.
As reported in our March and April Updates, the Amendment Act amends Australia’s workplace relations laws by introducing new rights under the Act and conferring new powers on the workplace tribunal, the Fair Work Commission (the “FWC”). Relevantly, the FWC will pick up a new jurisdiction commencing 1 January 2014 to hear bullying complaints, and also arbitrate general protections claims with the consent on the parties. However, in order to enable the amendments to be passed, the Federal Government abandoned the proposal to give the FWC the power to arbitrate stalled greenfields agreement negotiations.
A number of the “family friendly” amendments relating to concurrent unpaid parental leave, special maternity leave and flexible work arrangements have already come in effect, commencing on 1 July 2013.
The balance of the amendments will come into effect on 1 January 2014, including the new bullying complaints jurisdiction and union right of entry provisions which have given the green light for discussions to take place in lunch areas. In addition, employers will need to consult with employees (and their representatives) covered by a Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement about changes to rosters.
Katrina Li and Chris Tan