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Amendments to the Fair Work Act: Effective 1 July 2013

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By James Sanders, Lawyer, MST Lawyers

On 28 June 2013 royal assent was given to the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013. This Act will bring a range of changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 in two stages:

Changes effective from 1 July 2013:

  • Transferring to a safe job:
    • Pregnant employees must be transferred to a safe job where it is inadvisable to continue in their current position due to risks arising out of the pregnancy.
  • Concurrent unpaid parental leave:
    • Extended from 3 weeks to 8 weeks and can be taken in separate periods.
    • Employee must give 10 weeks’ notice.
  • Unpaid special maternity leave:
    • Where unpaid special maternity leave is taken, it will no longer reduce the entitlement to unpaid maternity leave.
  •  Right to request flexible work arrangements:
    • Employees will be entitled to request flexible working arrangement in more circumstances.
    • A parent or carer is entitled to request to work part time when returning from leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Conferences:
    • There has been a clarification of the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) ability to conciliate, mediate, express opinions and make recommendations in conferences (without limiting the FWC’s power).

Changes effective from 1 January 2014:

  • Right of Entry:
    • Location: Permit holders may now conduct interviews/discussions where participants/interviewees ordinarily take meal or other breaks.
    • Frequency: The FWC may deal with disputes brought by the employer and make orders, if satisfied that the frequency of entry would require unreasonable diversion of the employer’s critical resources.
    • Remote areas: The employer must enter into accommodation and transport arrangements with the permit holder if:
      (i) the provision would not cause undue inconvenience; and
      (ii) the request is made within reasonable period before it is required.
  • Modern award objective:
    • Modern awards objective will be varied to require that the FWC take into account the need for additional remuneration for working overtime, unsocial/irregular/ unpredictable hours, weekends, public holidays, or shifts when making or varying modern awards.
  • Consent Arbitration:
    • The FWC will have the power to deal with unlawful termination and general protections disputes involving a dismissal by arbitration rather than an application to the Federal Courts.
    • The FWC will have the power to order:
      (i)   reinstatement;
      (ii)  payment of compensation;
      (iii) payment of an amount for remuneration lost; and
      (iv) maintaining the continuity of the person’s employment.
  • Anti-bullying:
    • The FWC will have powers to hear bullying applications and make any orders it considers appropriate except pecuniary payments.
    • The WorkSafe Authority can still investigate and prosecute a bullying claim after the FWC has dealt with the claim.

For more information on the Fair Work Act 2009 and Fair Work Amendment Act 2013, please contact our experienced Workplace Relations team on (03) 8540 0200.