Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
In February this year, we wrote about some of the proposed
changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW
Act). The Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 (Cth)
(Amendment Act) has now been passed by the Federal
Parliament and it is important for employers to be aware of the
changes that have come into effect. Now is also a good time for
employers to review their policies and procedures to ensure that
they are up-to-date.
Important changes to the FW Act effective from 1 July 2013
On 1 July 2013, a number of "family-friendly" changes
took effect, which we set out below.
Flexible working arrangements: The range of
employees that can make a request for flexible working arrangements
has been expanded to include: employees with caring
responsibilities; parents or guardians of children who are school
age or younger; employees with a disability; employees that are 55
years or older; and employees that are experiencing family violence
or caring or supporting a family or household member who is
experiencing family violence.
The FW Act also now prescribes a non-exhaustive list of
"reasonable business grounds" in relation to when an
employer can refuse an employee's request for flexible working
Concurrent leave: The amount of parental leave
that new parents can take at the same time has been increased from
a maximum of 3 weeks to a maximum of 8 weeks. This concurrent leave
can be taken in up to 4 separate periods, each of 2 weeks or
Right to transfer to a safe job: Pregnant
women can now transfer to a safe job with their employer, even if
they have not worked for their employer for 12 months.
Special maternity leave: Periods of unpaid
special maternity leave taken by a female employee prior to giving
birth do not reduce the employee's entitlement to 12
months' unpaid parental leave. If a female employee has an
accrued entitlement to paid personal/carer's leave (e.g. sick
leave), she may take that leave rather than taking unpaid special
Further changes effective from 1 January 2014
There are additional changes to the FW Act that will come into
effect from 1 January 2014. These include:
Anti-bullying measures: Employees who
reasonably believe they are being bullied at work will be able to
apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the
Right of entry rules: The changes will give
the Fair Work Commission more power to deal with disputes and will
require there to be agreement between the employer and the relevant
permit-holder about where discussions with employees must be
Consultation about rosters and hours of work:
The standard consultation clause that must be included in awards
and enterprise agreements will require employers to 'genuinely
consult' with employees about changes to their regular roster
and ordinary working hours.
What can employers do?
In order to respond to the recent and future changes to the FW
Act, employers should review their policies and procedures with the
legislative changes in mind and update relevant policies and
procedures as required.
Employers should also review the training and support provided
to managers, employees regarding the prevention of bullying in the
lead up to 1 January 2014.
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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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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