The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2012 (Bill) has today passed the Senate and now awaits royal assent, and will see a number of amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) that will have various implications for your business.

Some of the key amendments all businesses should be aware of include:

  • Fair Work Australia (FWA) will become the Fair Work Commission (FWC). This will be perhaps one of the most visible changes resulting from the Bill, and with it will come two additional Vice Presidential Member appointments to FWC
  • The time limits for lodging unfair dismissal claims and adverse actions claims in FWA were previously 14 and 60 days respectively - they are now both 21 days in FWC
  • FWC will have broader powers to dismiss unfair dismissal cases, and to award costs against parties, lawyers and other agents. Amendments to costs provisions signal a move towards restoring similar provisions previously contained in the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth)
  • Opt-out clauses in enterprise agreements will be expressly prohibited, as will be collective agreements with only one employee
  • There will be an introduction of default superannuation funds in modern awards.

Businesses should welcome the changes to the costs provisions as they may see costs awarded against applicants and/or their representatives for unreasonable behaviour, such as a failure to agree to terms of settlement that oculd have led to the application being discontinued. The uniform time limits for unfair and adverse action claims should prevent employees from lodging unfair dismissal claims and withdrawing their claim to lodge an adverse action claim in the event that they do not achieve their desired settlement. This is to be welcomed.

Businesses concerned about the implications of the FWAA are invited to contact our Australian Workplace Relations, Employment & Safety team to discuss the changes in further detail.

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