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More Changes To Workplace Relations Changes

More Changes To Workplace Relations Changes

The move to a fully national system has progressed further with more states joining the work health and safety regime and of course transition to the modern award is eighteen months away from completion.

Oh, and there is an election as well. Here are a few key areas for 2013.

Workplace health and safety

A reminder Tasmania and South Australia are now in the national workplace health and safety system. These two states now join New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Queensland in adopting the Workplace Health and Safety Act (WHS Act). Western Australia has delayed the introduction of the WHS Act and Victoria has stated it will not adopt it.

Dad and partner pay

‘Dad and Partner Pay’ has now begun. If an employee has a baby or adopt a child on or after January 1, 2013, they or their partner could be eligible for Dad and Partner Pay. Dad and Partner Pay is a new payment for dads or partners caring for a new child (including adopting parents and same-sex couples), available under the Paid Parental Leave scheme. An eligible working dad or partner can get up to two weeks of government-funded pay at the rate of the National Minimum Wage (currently $606 per week before tax) when they are on unpaid leave from work or are not working. Eligibility is for full-time, part-time, casually, seasonally employed, on contract, or even self-employed.

Transition to modern awards

Awards continue to change through the transitional provisions. This year will be the last year when transition affects Saturday, Sunday and overtime rates as well as ordinary and shift rates. From 2014, the full award will be applicable to workplaces.

National wage decision

In addition there will be a wage increase payable from the first pay period on or after July 1, 2013.

Changes to civil penalty amounts

The maximum penalties for a contravention of a civil remedy provision of the Fair Work Act or Regulations increased on December 28, 2012. So, for not keeping correct records or failing to pay the correct rates, the maximum penalty for:

• an individual will increase from $6600 to $10,200

• a company will increase from $33,000 to $51,000.

Fair work act changes

Several changes to the Fair Work Act came into effect on January 1, 2013. In addition to renaming Fair Work Australia the Fair Work Commission (the Commission), there are legislative changes in relation to unfair dismissals, general protections and enterprise agreements. These are detailed below.

Unfair dismissal

The time limit for lodging unfair dismissal applications will increase from 14 to 21 days. The Commission will be given further powers to dismiss unfair dismissal applications and to make cost orders against parties, lawyers and paid agents in unfair dismissal matters.

General protections

The time limit for lodging a general protections dismissal application will be reduced from 60 to 21 days.

Enterprise agreements

The Fair Work Amendment Act 2012 includes the following changes in relation to making enterprise agreements:

• enterprise agreements cannot be made with a single employee;

• a union official cannot act as bargaining representative for an employee unless the union has coverage to represent that employee;

• terms allowing an employee to opt out of an enterprise agreement are prohibited;

• a bargaining representative applying for a scope order need only take all reasonable steps to give notice to other bargaining representatives; and

• employers cannot modify the notice of employee representational rights prescribed by the regulations.

Other changes include:

• provision for appointment of two Vice Presidents to the Commission;

• clarifying when a modern award variation application can be struck out, and who can apply to vary a modern award to remove ambiguity or uncertainty or correct an error;

• provision for electronic voting in protected action ballots;

• employees representing themselves in bargaining may vote in a protected action ballot if they are members of a union that applied for the ballot order;

• the Commission will be required to specify a date for the close of voting in a protected action ballot that will enable the ballot to be conducted expeditiously;

• the Commission will be required to ensure all modern awards include a default superannuation term, and conduct four-yearly reviews of default superannuation fund terms in awards (will not commence before January 1, 2014); and

• provision for appointment of six Expert Panel Members who have responsibilities in relation to annual wage reviews and reviews of default superannuation fund terms in awards (expected to commence on July 1, 2013).

Transition to modern awards

Awards continue to change through the transitional provisions. This year will be the last year when transition affects Saturday, Sunday and overtime rates as well as ordinary and shift rates. From 2014, the full award will be applicable to workplaces.

National wage decision

In addition there will be a wage increase payable from the first pay period on or after July 1, 2013.


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