It is important that employers are aware of the changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 that commenced on 1 January 2014. Cooper Grace Ward’s employment and workplace relations team has prepared a brief summary of the key changes.

New workplace bullying laws

These new laws allow an eligible worker who is bullied at work to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order for the bullying to stop.

The Commission must begin dealing with an application made by a worker within 14 days of it being received. 

The Commission has broad powers to deal with the dispute, including:

  • making an order that the individual or group cease the specified behaviour;
  • requiring ongoing monitoring of workplace relationships;
  • conducting a review of the employer’s policies and procedures; and
  • requiring the employer to provide ongoing education and training about workplace bullying. 

The Commission cannot order compensation or financial penalties.

When making an order, the Commission may consider any final or interim outcomes arising from any investigation undertaken by the employer, the employer’s procedure for resolving a complaint or any other matters the Commission considers relevant.

If a Commission order is breached, the party affected, a union or the Fair Work Inspector may make an application to the Court for a penalty against the contravening person(s) up to a maximum of $10,200 per breach.

Changes to right of entry

Changes to the right of entry laws also commenced on 1 January 2014. These changes:

  • allow unions to use workplace lunchrooms for meetings where other arrangements cannot be agreed between the union and the employer; and
  • oblige employers to facilitate permit holders' access to travel and accommodation to remote locations not otherwise reasonably accessible.  

The Commission also now has the power to deal with disputes about the new accommodation and transport arrangements, as well as about the frequency of visits to workplaces by permit holders.

Consultation about changes to regular rosters or ordinary hours

New consultation requirements now require modern awards and enterprise agreements to contain a term requiring employers to consult with employees about changes to their regular rosters or ordinary hours in addition to the previous consultation obligations.