Three Fair Work Commission General Manager reports were tabled in the House of Representatives this week. These reports presented research findings for the period May 2012–May 2015. Key findings of each report are as follows.
Developments in making enterprise agreements
During the research period, 94% of the 19,763 enterprise agreement applications which were lodged were approved. The main reasons employers sought enterprise agreements included:
To meet employee organisation (eg union) demands
To reward employees
Terms and conditions of specific awards were not sufficiently suitable or flexible for employer’s enterprise
The main reasons employers did not seek enterprise agreements included:
Award rates and conditions were considered adequate
There was a preference to negotiate with individual employees
The enterprise bargaining process was too difficult to implement
Individual flexibility arrangements (IFA)
Since 1 July 2012 around 3% of employers have made an IFA with a single employee, and 11% of employers have made an IFA with more than one of their employees, leaving approximately 86% of employers having not made any IFA. Of those employers that did make IFAs, 75% did so to vary a modern award while 21% did so to vary an enterprise agreement.
The majority of IFAs were initiated by employees, with the common variation concerning when work is performed, such as changes to the span of ordinary time hours and modifications to breaks, although 36% of employers reported they had varied payment of wages via an IFA.
A preference for using informal arrangements with employees was the most common reason given by employers for not making an IFA.
Operation of the provisions of the National Employment Standards relating to requests for flexible working arrangements and extensions of unpaid parental leave
The key finding from this report is that most requests for flexible working arrangements are dealt with informally by employers. Of the 40% of employers who received a request, only 1% of employers received a formal request in line with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) process.
Employers reported that 90% of flexible working arrangement requests were approved as requested, and 9% of requests approved with some elements changed. The reason for any refusal was the request not being operationally viable. Employees gave slightly different results saying that 85% of requests were approved as requested and 12% granted with some changes.
Requests to extend unpaid parental leave have only been received by 3% of employers, although almost 90% of such requests were granted with refusals usually due to operational reasons.