Bill's Media Releases

Modern families central to Fair Work Act improvements

Greater flexibility in parental leave, increased rostering protections and broader rights to request flexible working arrangements are among the key legislative improvements that will benefit millions of working Australians as the Gillard Government progresses its Second Tranche of changes to the Fair Work Act.

 Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today confirmed the Government’s next set of changes to the Fair Work Act, following last year’s independent review of the legislation, will focus on flexibility for modern families.

 “Helping families with work and family balance, changes to parental leave to provide more flexibility to new parents and a requirement for employers to consider the impact of major change on employees’ family and care responsibilities – these are the signature changes we will soon bring before the Parliament,” Mr Shorten said.

 The package will also implement the Government’s response to the key recommendations from the report of the House Committee on Education and Employment Inquiry into Workplace Bullying.

 “These policy initiatives demonstrate the Government’s commitment to providing protections and flexibility to hardworking Australians,” Mr Shorten said.

 The specific measures in the second tranche of changes include:

  • amending the model consultation clauses for awards and agreements to require an employer, before making any decision to change rosters or working hours, to genuinely consult with affected employees about the impact of the changes on their family life;

  • providing a worker who has suffered bullying at work a right of recourse through the Fair Work Commission;

  • amending the National Employment Standards to extend the scope of the right to request flexible working arrangements to more categories of employees who need it – carers, workers with disability, mature aged workers and workers experiencing domestic violence;

  • improving entitlements for workers who are pregnant, including changes to special maternity leave and the right to transfer to a safe job,

  • provide flexibility to parents taking unpaid parental leave, including extending the time that parents can take unpaid parental leave together from 3 weeks to 8 weeks and allowing them to choose when they want to take that leave; and

  • an express right to request a return to work on a part time basis after taking unpaid parental leave.

 “Our policies will provide families with real flexibility, whether it’s before or after the birth or adoption of a child, where they have caring responsibilities or are on the path to retirement,” Mr Shorten said.

 “They will improve workforce participation by providing rights for workers to explore flexible work arrangements with their employers – rather than simply leaving their job”.

 “This Labor Government will continue to ensure Australian employees have a strong safety net at work – whether through balanced workplace relations laws, protections through strong workplace health and safety rules and better superannuation.”

 The Minister called on the Leader of the Opposition to support the amendments and to release his own workplace relations policy so that all Australians can understand what the Coalition plan to do to key rights and entitlements.  

 “We know from bitter past experience Tony Abbott doesn’t believe in protecting the entitlements of working Australians, providing flexibility to help balance work and family life or making sure workers can’t just be sacked for no reason,” Mr Shorten said.

 “The Liberals need to release their policy experts from the 100 dams policy and transfer them over to workplace relations policy preparation urgently, so that we can have a real debate on workplace relations.”

  Mr Shorten’s Media Contact: Sam Casey — 0421 697 660