This week the Senate has passed a number of amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009. While the amendments are significant, not all changes put to the Senate in early 2014 have gained the support from the government cross-benchers.

The passed amendments include:

  • Establishing a new process for negotiation of greenfields agreements. The changes include extending good faith bargaining obligations to greenfield negotiations. This also includes an optional six month negotiation timeframe, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement an employer can apply for the Fair Work Commission to make a determination;

  • Providing a new requirement that will mean employees ‘right to strike’ would not be permitted unless bargaining has commenced and there is a majority support from all employees;

  • Imposing an obligation on employers to discuss with an employee requests to extend unpaid parental leave, beyond the initial 12 months.

Below is a summary of the changes opposed by the Senate that have been taken out of the Bill:

  • Individual flexibility terms in all enterprise agreements. This includes permitting non-monetary benefits being taken into account when assessing employee remuneration;

  • Restoring arrangements relating to union right of entry that were amended in 2013;

  • Preventing the transfer of business provisions in circumstances where the employee (on his or her own initiative) becomes employed by an associated entity of his or her former employer;

  • Reconciling inconsistencies across jurisdictions to make clear that an employee is not entitled to take or accrue leave while they are absent from work and receiving workers’ compensation;

  • Giving the Commission greater powers to dismiss unfair dismissal applications without a hearing or conference if, for example, the application has no reasonable chance of success.

If the Government accepts the amendments, the Bill will be remitted to the House of Representatives to vote on. Employers, particularly those with enterprise agreements that are coming up for renewal, should eagerly watch this space.

For more information, please contact:

Jim Rutherford
Harwood Andrews
T: 03 5226 8579

Sonia McCabe
Senior Associate
Harwood Andrews
T: 03 5226 8558