Four of the Australian Government’s proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) have finally been approved by Parliament.

On 16 September 2014 we published an alert outlining the Coalition Government’s proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). However, since then the changes have been held up in the Senate.

A revised bill has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament, providing for the following amendments to the Act:

  • Parental leave - employers must not refuse a request to extend a period of parental leave without first giving an employee a reasonable opportunity to discuss the request. The Act does not provide any guidance on what is a ‘reasonable opportunity’.  Failing to provide a reasonable opportunity does not attract a penalty.
  • Greenfields agreements – An employer may apply for the Fair Work Commission to approve a greenfields agreement if the employer has been unable to successfully negotiate the agreement with the union within six months (in contrast to the three months initially proposed by the Coalition Government). However, before a greenfields agreement is approved the Commission must be satisfied that the agreement provides, on an overall basis, pay and conditions consistent with  the relevant industry standards for equivalent work.
  • Protected industrial action – The Commission cannot issue a protected action ballot order until bargaining has commenced for a proposed enterprise agreement.
  • Interest on unclaimed monies – The Fair Work Ombudsman must pay interest on monies held on behalf of employees for more than six months.

There has been no announcement as to when the amendments will take effect.  We will provide a further alert when that happens. In the meantime, the amendments can be found at the Parliament of Australia website.