The last stage of Gillard Government reforms to the Fair Work Act took effect on 1 January 2014. These changes have substantially altered unions’ rights and powers when entering a work premises.
Prior to the changes, if a union official exercised right of entry onto any premises to hold discussions or interviews, the occupier of those premises could nominate where those discussions were held, provided the location was reasonable. Under the new laws, union officials are able to hold interviews and discussions with employees in any room agreed with the occupier. If the parties cannot agree on a location, the union official can meet with employees in the employer’s lunch room.
Further, the new laws require employers in remote locations to assist union officials with accommodation and transport arrangements on right of entry visits. The employer or occupier of the work premises only has an obligation to provide (but not pay for) accommodation and transport where the premises are not “reasonably accessible” or where accommodation is “not reasonably available.”
If an employer or an occupier of a work premises considers that the right of entry provisions have been contravened, they may apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to deal with the dispute. The FWC has the power to make any order to suspend, revoke or impose conditions on entry permits. The FWC also has new powers to make orders relating to the frequency with which a union official enters a work premises. The FWC can also apply penalties for proven contraventions of right of entry laws. The Federal Government has foreshadowed its intention to amend these provisions and will introduce a bill into parliament in autumn this year. In the meantime, employers are bound by the current legislation.
If you think that a permit holder is making unreasonable right of entry demands on your business, you should contact HR Legal directly for further information on your rights and obligations.
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.