On 19 March 2014, the Federal Government introduced the Paid Parental Leave Amendment Bill 2014 into Parliament. The PPL Bill will remove the requirement for employers to provide Government funded parental leave pay to their eligible employees: from 1 July 2014, employees will be paid directly by Centrelink, unless an employer “opts in” to provide parental leave pay to its employees and the employee agrees to their employer paying them.
This is on top of the more substantial changes to the Fair Work Act introduced by the Government on 27 February 2014, which aim to deliver on the key aspects of the Coalition’s 2013 pre-election policy and various elements of Fair Work Commission Review.
If passed in its current form, the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 (FW Bill), will implement a number of key changes to the following areas:
- Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFA)
The FW Bill will remove the ability for unions to limit the use of IFAs in enterprise agreements, by expanding the scope of terms that enterprise agreements must state can be affected by IFAs. The FW Bill will maintain the former Labor Government’s proposed extension of the notice period for terminating IFAs from 4 weeks to 13 weeks, in line with modern award IFAs.
- Right of entry
The FW Bill will turn back the clock on the Labor Government’s recent changes to the right of entry provisions which took effect on 1 January 2014. Under the FW Bill, the employer’s lunch room will no longer be the default location for interviews and discussions with union officials. To have access, permit holders will need to be party to an enterprise agreement applying on the site or invited by an employee who is an actual or potential union member. Employers in remote locations will also no longer be required to assist union officials with accommodation and transport arrangements on right of entry visits.
- Annual leave and unpaid parental leave
The FW Bill provides that untaken annual leave be paid out at the employee’s base rate of pay on termination, unless there is provision in a modern award or enterprise agreement which requires payment of annual leave loading on termination. The FW Bill will also require employers to provide a reasonable opportunity to discuss an employee’s request for an extension of unpaid parental leave before a request is refused. Further, an employee who is absent from work and in receipt of worker’s compensation payments will not be able to accrue annual leave during the compensation period, even if this is allowed under State legislation.
- Unfair Dismissal
The Fair Work Commission will be given greater powers to dismiss unfair dismissal proceedings, and will no longer be required to hold a hearing or conference when assessing if an application had no reasonable prospects of success, or a party had failed to comply with directions.
The FW Bill also proposes a number of changes to streamline the processes for approval of greenfields agreements and to transfer of business provisions in certain cases.
The above changes, if passed, are likely to affect most businesses. The FW Bill is undergoing a Senate enquiry process and is not likely to be passed before 30 June 2014. Employers should continue to monitor the changes, and make sure that management is kept up to date and able to implement them when they are made.
If you have any questions regarding the implications of these proposed changes, please do not hesitate to contact HR Legal on the details below.
This article was produced by HR Legal. It is intended to provide general information only in summary format on legal issues. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on as such.