Yesterday the Federal Parliament passed the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 (Cth) (Bill) which makes a number of changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act).

The Bill represents the Government’s second tranche response to recommendations made by the Fair Work Review Panel in its June 2012 report on the operation of the FW Act, as well as a number of reforms reflecting the Government’s policy priorities.

The changes to the FW Act arising from the Bill include:

  • the introduction of family friendly arrangements, including expanding the right for pregnant women to transfer to a safe job, providing enhanced entitlements for members of employee couples to take concurrent parental leave, and expanding access to rights to request flexible work arrangements;

  • the introduction of remedies for bullied workers, including allowing workers to apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop the bullying;

  • a requirement for genuine consultation around changes to an employee’s regular roster and ordinary hours of work;

  • new powers of the FWC to arbitrate general protections dismissal disputes and unlawful termination disputes when the parties consent;

  • the introduction of procedural requirements relating to the new arbitration jurisdiction, including measures to limit appeals and provide cost orders in certain circumstances;

  • the clarification of the FWC’s ability to conciliate, mediate, express opinions, and make recommendations when conducting conferences;

  • alignment of the time limit for making unlawful termination applications with the 21 day time limit for making general protections and unfair dismissal applications; and

  • the expansion of unions’ rights of entry, particularly with regard to the location of meetings, permit arrangements and access to travel and accommodation.

Employers need to familiarise themselves with the changes and review their policies and procedures to ensure they are complying with their current and future obligations under the FW Act.

Employers also need to consider the impact on their business of expanded employee and union rights under the FW Act, and the changes to the processes and FWC powers with respect to resolving employee claims and union disputes.