One of the last acts of the Federal Parliament last week was to pass a number of significant changes to the Fair Work Act.
We summarise these new provisions which will have important implications for employers.
The Fair Work Commission will now have jurisdiction over anti-bullying laws. An employee may apply to the Commission to stop bullying and this must be dealt within 14 days.
This is intended to be a “cheap and cost effective process” to encourage employees to come forward and make complaints about bullying conduct. However, it will be important to implement processes and action to minimise the risk of more “go away money” situations.
Unpaid parental leave will be increased from 3 weeks to 8 weeks and will allow parents to take that leave anytime in the first 12 months after the birth of the child. Additionally, employees will now be able to take parental leave in non-consecutive periods.
Flexible working arrangements
The class of employees eligible to request flexible working arrangements will be extended to include the following:
- Any employees with caring responsibilities
- Parents with children who are school age or younger. Employees with a disability.
Mature age employees
- Employees experiencing domestic violence.
- Employees supporting a family member who is a victim of domestic violence.
Employers will be required to consider a new, non-exhaustive list of reasonable business grounds in order to refuse a request for a flexible working arrangement.
Right of entry by union officials
The Fair Work Commission will now have jurisdiction to deal with disputes concerning the frequency of union entry to work sites for discussion purposes, the cost of facilitating accommodation and transport costs in remote areas and other related matters.
The changes are to come into operation from 1 January 2014, other than the parental leave which is yet to be announced but will not be before December 2013.
For further information on the amendments to the Fair Work Act and how these changes will affect your business, please contact our Employment Industrial Relations and Safety Team: