Fair Work Act Changes
In November 2015, laws were passed that amended the Fair Work Act and below is a recap for employers of the main changes as these workplace laws are now in operation.
Greenfields Agreement – Employer Rights
These are enterprise agreements that are made in relation to new enterprises (ie, before employees are actually employed) and are typically negotiated between the employer and relevant trade unions.
NEW: the Fair Work Act now provides employers with relief where an agreement with unions cannot be reached – after six months of negotiation, employers can go directly to the Fair Work Commission to have their Greenfields Agreement approved
NEW: the Fair Work Commission must approve the Greenfields Agreement if, on an overall basis, it provides for pay and conditions that are consistent with the prevailing pay and conditions within the relevant industry for equivalent work
NEW: provided the Fair Work Commission approves the Greenfields Agreement, it is taken to have been made on the date when the application for approval was lodged with the Fair Work Commission
Unpaid Parental Leave – Employee Rights
Employees who qualify for unpaid parental leave are entitled to request up to an additional 12 months of unpaid parental leave (ie, in addition to the usual 12 month unpaid parental leave period) and an employer can only refuse the request on reasonable business grounds.
NEW: the employer must not refuse the request unless the employer has given the employee a reasonable opportunity to discuss the request
Protected Industrial Action
Protected industrial action is simply industrial action engaged in pursuant to the provisions of the Fair Work Act (as a tactic in enterprise agreement negotiations).
NEW: unions and other employee associations are now prevented from taking protected industrial action to force an employer to agree to bargain
NEW: in order for unions and other employee associations to apply to the Fair Work Commission for a Protected Action Ballot Order (ie, requiring a protected action ballot to be conducted to determine whether employees wish to engage in particular protected industrial action for the agreement), one of the following must occur:
(a) the employer agrees to bargain, or initiates bargaining, for the agreement;
(b) a majority support determination in relation to the agreement comes into operation;
(c) a scope order in relation to the agreement comes into operation; or
(d) a low‑paid authorisation in relation to the agreement that specifies the employer comes into operation.
On the Horizon….
Further changes to the Fair Work Act may be coming so stay tuned for updates in due course!
If you have any questions in relation to this article or if you would like advice in other employment law matters such as what your employer obligations are under the Fair Work Act or your require representation in a matter before the Fair Work Commission, please feel free to speak with or email one of our specialist employment lawyers on (02) 9635 7966 or firstname.lastname@example.org