Overnight legislation passed the Australian Parliament which provides millions of working Australians with increased flexibility and greater protections at work.
The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 provides more working Australians with the right to request flexible workplace arrangements, a single right of recourse to resolve workplace bullying and greater flexibility in the taking of parental leave.
These amendments strengthen Labor’s Fair Work system which provides a comprehensive safety net to protect the most vulnerable in our workforce as well as the flexibility that working parents and carers need.
The legislation establishes new consultation requirements to ensure that employers genuinely consult with employees about changes to regular rosters and working hours.
The Bill also increases the length of concurrent unpaid parental leave to eight weeks and provides greater flexibility about when it can be taken in the 12 months after the birth of the child.
The right to request flexible workplace arrangements have been expanded to:
- parents returning to work after a period of parental leave;
- parents with school-age children;
- workers with caring responsibilities;
- mature-age workers;
- workers with disability; and
- those suffering family violence and their carers.
The Bill introduces a long overdue remedy for victims of workplace bullying in line with the recommendations of the House of Representatives workplace bullying inquiry.
The provisions aimed at tackling the scourge of workplace bullying will not only reduce the dreadful human cost of bullying, but also the cost to the economy.
From 1 January, employees or employers suffering from workplace bullying will be able to make an application to the Fair Work Commission for help to resolve the bullying.
The Government has allocated an additional $21.4 million to the Fair Work Commission in light of the new responsibility. The Commission will be required to deal with a matter within 14 days of an application being made.
Where someone has been bullied and the matter cannot be resolved between the parties, the Commission will have the power to make an order to prevent bullying in the workplace in the future.
The Fair Work Act gives the Fair Work Commission the power to dismiss applications and order costs on the grounds that they are frivolous or vexatious or without reasonable prospect of success.
The Bill also includes reforms to the right of entry regime which balance employees’ democratic right to be represented at work with the need for employers to go about their business without undue disruption.
Labor believes in the value and utility of penalty rates - that work at hours which are not family friendly or unsocial is fairly remunerated.
This is reflected in the amendment to the modern awards objective to ensure that the Fair Work Commission, in carrying out its role, must take into account the need to provide additional remuneration for employees working outside normal hours, such as employees working overtime or on weekends;
The modest, balanced and pragmatic enhancements to the Fair Work Act contained in this Bill will further encourage productive, collaborative, smart workplaces.
It will also provide certainty for employers in key areas while ensuring that all workers, especially those with family and caring responsibilities, can effectively participate in the workforce and be represented at work.
MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberley Gardiner 0427 138 106