The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill
Shorten, has announced a second tranche of changes to the Fair
Work Act 2009 (Cth) (Act) following last
year's independent panel review of the Act and initial changes
to the Act announced in
These proposed changes focus on flexibility for families and
seek to provide additional support to parents in managing their
work arrangements, through greater flexibility in parental leave,
broader rights to request flexible working arrangements, and
increased rostering protections.
IMPROVED PARENTAL LEAVE ARRANGEMENTS AND PROTECTIONS FOR
Under the announced changes to the Act, the Federal Government
increase the entitlement for parents taking unpaid leave
together from 3 to 8 weeks;
allow parents to choose when they take their unpaid parental
protect women at work by ensuring that they can transfer to a
safe job if one is available, regardless of their length of
ensure that women who need to take unpaid special maternity
leave, prior to giving birth, are not penalised by a reduction in
their unpaid parental leave entitlements; and
provide employees with the right to request flexible work
arrangements from their employer when they return to work after a
period of parental leave.
EXPANDED RIGHT TO REQUEST FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS
Currently under the National Employment Standards in the Act, an
employee (as specified) who is a parent, or has responsibility for
the care of a child, may request a change in their working
arrangements. Importantly, however, this request may only be made
by an employee to assist them to care for their child if the child
is under school age or is under 18 and has a disability.
The proposed changes to the Act include extending the scope of
the right to request flexible working arrangements to more
categories of employees, namely:
employees who are carers more generally;
employees with a disability;
mature age employees; and
employees experiencing domestic violence.
As noted in
our previous article on flexible working arrangements, while
employers may only refuse a flexible working arrangement request on
'reasonable business grounds', importantly there is no
general mechanism for employees to challenge their employer's
refusal. There is no current proposal to change this position under
CONSULTATION OF ROSTERING ARRANGEMENTS
Lastly, it has been proposed that the model consultation clauses
for modern awards and enterprise agreements be amended to require
that an employer, before making any decision to change rosters or
working hours, genuinely consult with affected employees about the
impact of the proposed changes on their family life.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?
Employers will need to be vigilant in monitoring the status of
the above changes. The Federal Government has stated that it will
consult with stakeholders about the details concerning the above
changes, and as a result, the full extent of the proposed changes
is currently unclear. It also remains to be seen whether the above
changes will be implemented before the Federal election to be held
later this year.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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