The review of Queensland's industrial relations laws
will include discrimination and work health and safety
The terms of reference have been released for the first
comprehensive review of Queensland's IR laws since 1998. It has
a broad scope, and will allow the Government to consider the IR
framework and recommendations for reform.
The review will impact on Queensland's Industrial Relations
Act 1999, which applies to Queensland Government departments, local
governments, statutory authorities and certain state bodies.
A comprehensive review is not unusual in IR law. There have been
many Federal reviews, most recently with the former Government
reviewing the operation of the Fair Work Act 2009 after three years
of operation. The Productivity Commission is currently reviewing
the operation of the IR regulatory framework federally following
the release of Issues Papers in January this year.
The Commission's draft report, released on 4 August 2015,
"Contrary to perceptions,
Australia's labour market performance and flexibility is
relatively good by global standards, and many of the concerns that
pervaded historical arrangements have now abated. Strike activity
is low, wages are responsive to economic downturns and there are
multiple forms of employment arrangements that offer employees and
employers flexible options for working."
In the State, no such reviews have occurred.
Queensland's IR system
The IR Act, which commenced in 1999, was not significantly
amended until 2012. During the same period, the Federal legislation
changed considerably. After the Workplace Relations Act 1996
commenced, it was then significantly amended to become WorkChoices
in 2006, and then reformed in 2009 to become the Fair Work Act.
During this period, the State law was relatively unchanged, save
only for the breadth of the jurisdiction.
WorkChoices, relying on the Corporations Power in the
Constitution, took trading corporations into the Federal
jurisdiction in 2006. Queensland also referred IR matters for the
unincorporated private sector to the Commonwealth in 2009, along
with the majority of the other states.
However, Queensland's IR Act more recently also undertook
considerable change. During 2012-2013, the Newman Government
introduced significant changes to the Act across six rounds of
amendments, including some amendments to "harmonise" the
IR Act with the Fair Work Act:
the adoption of minimum core employment standards, similar to
the National Employment Standards;
the creation and operation of modern awards, akin to the
restrictions on the content of certified agreements, including
to prohibit provisions about job security, contracting out and
Some of the changes, such as the restrictions on the content of
certified agreements, were repealed earlier this year. Other
initiatives, such as the modernisation of awards, were varied and
awards that were previously made will be reconsidered as part of
the new wave of reform.
While looking at potential reform, the State Government has also
established an Industrial Relations Legislative Reform Reference
Group to carry out a review of Queensland's IR laws.
Scope of the review of Queensland's IR
The terms of reference for the review include the examination
the best arrangements for IR regulation in Queensland;
whether local government IR needs are better served in the
State or Federal jurisdiction;
potential areas for and benefits of further harmonising
Queensland's IR laws with the Fair Work Act 2009;
the appropriate structure, role, functions, powers and
independence of IR tribunals in Queensland;
contemporary and emerging IR matters in the State jurisdiction
such as workplace bullying, domestic and family violence, gender
equality, work-life balance, and changes in standard working
The review is due to report to Government by December 2015 with
recommendations for legislative amendment.
According to the terms of reference, the review will involve
broad consultation and the opportunity for stakeholders to make
formal submissions, however details have not yet been released.
Further harmonisation with the Fair Work
The review foreshadows the potential for further harmonisation
with the Fair Work Act.
Queensland's IR laws already bear many similarities to the
federal legislation, including minimum core employment standards,
right of entry provisions, an unfair dismissal regime and processes
for the negotiation of agreements.
There are however differences, including the absence of regimes
for bullying and adverse action.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
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An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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