What does 2016 hold for employment law in Australia?

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Ever since the introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009, which brought sweeping changes to the Australian employment laws, the foundation of the workplace has remained relatively unchanged. Unchanged, that is, until fairly recently when the Fair Work Amendment Act 2015 was put into effect, which will prove to alter the employment environment incrementally over the next few years.

But what will these changes mean for employment law in the year ahead? To understand what the future will hold for employment law, one must look towards the changes to the foundational laws of the modern workplace, to get an idea of what this amendment actually entails.

The amendment currently consists of various changes to the employment laws laid out in the Fair Work Act 2009. The first grouping of measures came into effect on 26 November 2015, with the remaining measures being passed though a bill known as the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2015 in December of 2015. The act passed in November included the following:

  • A reform to the agreement process involved with a greenfields agreement arrangement, which now includes the application of good faith bargaining and negotiation rules, ensuring that a six month notification of negotiations period can be opted for without hindrance. (A greenfields negotiation process can be especially tricky if a language barrier exists, which is why seeking out the assistance of a professionally trained translator is essential in this type of circumstance)
  • Refusals to extensions on unpaid parental leave are disallowed if no forum for discussion has been afforded to the employee.
  • Introduced measures that ensure the value of monies held by the Commonwealth for underpaid workers is held in tact.
  • All applications for protected action ballots are now only allowed once the bargaining and negotiation process of a proposed enterprise arrangement has begun.

The remaining measures of 2014, included in the Fair Work Amendment Bill 205, that was introduced and processed through Parliament by the Australian Government, involves the following:

  • Changes to the union workplace procedures which seeks to curb the frequency of workplace visits on the grounds of discussion purposes.
  • Measures that seek to improve the working lives of both employees and employers with regards to personal freedoms and work flexibility, whilst still remaining in control of protective measures on behalf of employees.
  • Reforms to the transfer processes involved in employees who move from one section of a business entity to another section of said business entity, which removes the existence of the mandatory following of said employees industrial instrument.

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