The Coalition’s Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 was introduced to the Senate on 27 August 2014 after being passed by the House of Representatives earlier that day.  The Coalition hopes that the Bill will be passed later this year as the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment has recommended to the Senate that it pass the Bill without any amendments.

The proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 will affect almost all workforce participants. However, the proposed amendments will particularly impact unions and those employers who deal with them.

A summary of the proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 is as follows.

Amendments affecting Unions

  • Greenfields agreements – An employer may apply for the Fair Work Commission to approve a proposed greenfields agreement if that employer has been unable to successfully negotiate the agreement with the union within three months.
  • Right of entry powers – A union official’s right of entry powers will be restricted by significantly limiting the circumstances in which officials can enter a workplace.
  • Location of union meetings – Employers will have input into the location in which officials can hold discussions with employees.
  • Transport and accommodation for officials - Employers will no longer have an obligation to provide transport and accommodation for officials visiting remote locations.
  • Right of entry disputes – The Commission’s power to deal with right of entry disputes will be expanded.
  • Protected industrial action – The Commission will not be able to issue a protected action ballot order before bargaining for a proposed enterprise agreement has commenced.

Amendments generally

  • Individual flexibility – Non-financial benefits will be able to be taken into account when determining whether an employee is better off overall under an individual flexibility arrangement.
  • Unfair dismissals - The Commission will be able to dismiss an unfair dismissal application where the application has no reasonable prospects of success or, in certain circumstances, where the applicant employee has acted unreasonably.
  • Transfer of business – the transfer of business provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 will not apply where an employee takes up employment with an associated employer at their own initiative.
  • Parental leave - employers will be required to give an employee on unpaid parental leave a reasonable opportunity to discuss extending the employee’s period of leave.
  • Entitlements upon termination - employers will only be obliged to pay out annual leave loading on termination if required to do so under an enterprise agreement or modern award.
  • Annual leave - employees will no longer be able to take annual leave while receiving workers’ compensation.