The Lib­er­als are in impli­ca­tions for employ­ers and employees

In Brief

The Lib­er­als are in and Tony Abbot has promised to restore the bal­ance back to the sen­si­ble cen­tre” in indus­tri­al rela­tions by not replac­ing, but improv­ing the cur­rent Fair Work Act. What does this actu­al­ly mean for employ­ees and employ­ers? From the Lib­er­al Par­ty’s pro­posed poli­cies we feel that employ­ers con­trol over cer­tain aspects of employ­ment will increase, the most sig­nif­i­cant being a greater capac­i­ty to defend unfair dis­missal claims, more oppor­tu­ni­ties to use indi­vid­ual flex­i­bil­i­ty arrange­ments and an increased focus on using inter­nal com­plaint process­es in instances of bullying.

Below we out­line poten­tial changes that may be intro­duced and their prac­ti­cal implications.

  • Improv­ing the Fair Work Com­mis­sion and con­sid­er­ing the intro­duc­tion of an inde­pen­dent appeal juris­dic­tion. It is antic­i­pat­ed any such appeal juris­dic­tion would be in between the Fair Work Com­mis­sion and the Fed­er­al Cir­cuit Court or Fed­er­al Court. This may increase the abil­i­ty of employ­ers to defend unfair dis­missal claims and increase the pre­dictabil­i­ty of these cases.
  • Ensur­ing Indi­vid­ual Flex­i­bil­i­ty Arrange­ments can be used even where there is an enter­prise agree­ment. Employ­ers should take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to review their enter­prise agree­ments and ensure they are lever­ag­ing flex­i­bil­i­ty arrange­ments to their full capacity.
  • paid parental scheme (paid by the gov­ern­ment) pro­vid­ing 26 weeks paid parental leave to moth­ers which is tied to their remu­ner­a­tion and not tied to the min­i­mum wage. Indi­vid­u­als would also receive super­an­nu­a­tion dur­ing this peri­od. You may want to con­sid­er the impli­ca­tions of that scheme on any pol­i­cy you cur­rent­ly have in place.
  • Regard­ing work­place bul­ly­ing the Lib­er­al par­ty has pro­posed that before employ­ees can access the Fair Work Com­mis­sion via a stop bul­ly­ing order they must attempt to resolve the issue through mech­a­nisms in their work­place. We see the addi­tion of this new step to the bul­ly­ing com­plaint process as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for employ­ers to mit­i­gate poten­tial bul­ly­ing claims ear­ly. Employ­ers can enjoy some pro­tec­tion by review­ing their exist­ing inter­nal com­plaints sys­tem. If one does not exist, this is the ide­al time to imple­ment an inter­nal com­plaints and inves­ti­ga­tion procedure.
  • Restrict­ing the rights of access of indus­tri­al bod­ies to work­places. This may involve remov­ing the right of entry to hold dis­cus­sions and replac­ing it with some­thing like a right of entry once an employ­ee requests the indus­tri­al rep­re­sen­ta­tive to enter.
  • Ask­ing the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty com­mis­sion to under­take a review of the Act, which may lead to amend­ments to the Act.
  • Re-estab­lish­ing the Aus­tralia Build­ing and Con­struc­tion Com­mis­sion to admin­is­ter a nation­al code and guide­lines in an effort to tack­le unde­sir­able indus­tri­al asso­ci­a­tion action in the build­ing industry.
  • Stricter report­ing rules for indus­tri­al asso­ci­a­tions to ensure mem­bers’ funds are not being mis­used. The sug­ges­tion is that by apply­ing cor­po­rate reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dards this will assist in ensur­ing trans­paren­cy of expen­di­ture and less mis­use of funds. The Lib­er­al Par­ty also envis­ages faster inves­ti­ga­tions in alle­ga­tions of mis­use. Cre­at­ing a Reg­is­tered Organ­i­sa­tions Com­mis­sion which will have statu­to­ry pow­ers to enforce the law.
  • Tai­lor ser­vices pro­vid­ed by the Fair Work Ombuds­man for small busi­ness and ensure there are increased resources to help small business.

In sum­ma­ry accord­ing to offi­cial Lib­er­al pol­i­cy it is not like­ly that employ­ers should expect mas­sive changes which are dif­fi­cult to adapt to, but rather some minor changes with which com­pli­ance will be rel­a­tive­ly easy.