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Majority of govt's fair work industrial relations systems begin

08 July, 2009

Over 18 months in the making, the majority of the Government’s new industrial relations legislation has taken effect, 1 July 2009 - including new rules dealing with unfair dismissal, agreement making, union right of entry and Fair Work Australia.

However, the National Employment Standards and Modern Awards, which combine to form the new safety net of employee entitlements do not commence until 1 January 2010.

Agreement Making

Collective bargaining will be actively promoted with the introduction of good faith bargaining. Where a majority of employees wish to bargain collectively, an employer must comply, and bargain in good faith.  Also, individual statutory agreement making will not be part of the new system. ITEAs will no longer be able to be made after 31 December 2009.

Unfair Dismissal

The exemption for businesses with 100 employees or fewer has been abolished.  However, exclusions based on genuine redundancies remain. There are also exclusions based on a new system of minimum employment periods.  A minimum employment period is the amount of time an employee must have been employed before being able to lodge an unfair dismissal claim if terminated.

If a business has fewer than 15 employees (full-time equivalent) – a small business – there is a 12 month minimum employment period.  If a business has 15 employees or more, there is a six month minimum employment period.  If an employee is terminated after the minimum employment period by a small business and it can demonstrate to have followed the Fair Dismissal Code, the dismissal will not be considered unfair.

Union Right of Entry

The key change to union right of entry is which union/s can enter your workplace to:

- Investigate a suspected breach of an award/agreement or the act if a member is affected by the suspected breach;
- Hold discussions with employees who are members or eligible to be members; and
Exercise a right under a state occupational health and safety law.
- Unions will be able to enter based on their coverage rules rather than whether they are party to an award or agreement operating at your workplace. This may mean that more and different unions have right of entry into your workplace.

Fair Work Australia

FWA is the new industrial relations super agency.  It will replace the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and the Workplace Authority.  The Workplace Ombudsman will become the Fair Work Ombudsman and undertake both education and enforcement roles.

Need more information?

NSW Business Chamber offers a comprehensive range of products and services to help you manage your people in this period of change.

The NSW Business Chamber Workplace Advice Unit can help your business to better manage workplace issues.

Stay up to date with the legislative changes with daily email updates from WorkplaceInfo, which also connects you to articles and analysis about what the Fair Work legislation will mean for your workplace.

It can also help you create new HR and IR documents, policies and contracts that will be compliant with the new Fair Work legislation, with HR Advance, an online document library developed and backed by Australian Business Lawyers.

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