AFEI Online Employers Adviser Article

 

Update on the 4 Yearly Review of Modern Awards

Published: 7 May 2015

 

The 4 Yearly Review of Modern Awards by the Fair Work Commission (Commission) is currently underway. It is being undertaken in two stages: an Award stage comprising all awards, where each award has been allocated to one of four groups and a Common Matters stage. Both stages are being undertaken simultaneously throughout 2015 and 2016.

 

Employer Common Claims – Annual Leave

Employers still await the outcome of the claim to insert greater flexibility around annual leave into a large number of modern awards. The flexibility includes capacity for employers to direct employees onto annual leave where employees have excessive leave accrued or in conjunction a close down at the enterprise.

An outcome is expected in this case shortly. 

 

Union Common Claims – Accident Pay and District Allowances

With limited exception the Commission recently rejected claims by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to delete sun-setting provisions in a large number of awards which had preserved the operation of accident pay and district allowance provisions in modern awards throughout the transitional period (i.e. which were scheduled to cease on 31 December 2014, like the transitional preserved redundancy entitlements).

However, unions are now seeking to insert new accident pay and district allowances into a large number of awards. 

Accident pay is “top-up” pay to an employee when they are on worker’s compensation. A district allowance is usually payable to an employee performing work in a remote location (e.g. Broken Hill).

AFEI has argued stridently against the inclusion of these terms in modern awards.  In the case of accident pay they discourage rehabilitation and return-to-work and are counter to the objectives of workers compensation schemes.  In the case of district allowances these significantly increase the cost of employment, are not founded on data which demonstrates disadvantage and discourage regional employment.

 

The hearing for the accident pay component of the claim is currently being heard. The hearing for the district allowance component is scheduled for late May.

 

Union Common Claims – Family Friendly and Domestic Violence Arrangements

On 2 March 2015 the ACTU filed the details of their Family and Domestic Violence Claim and their Family Friendly Work Arrangements claim.

The Family and Domestic Violence claim includes:

  • a broad definition of family and domestic violence that includes “any…behaviour by a person that…causes the family or household member to be fearful”;
  • a requirement to appoint a person (who must be trained) as the first contact for employees experiencing family or domestic violence;
  • 10 days paid leave per annum and further entitlements to leave once paid leave is exhausted;
  • access to personal/carer’s leave for the purpose of providing care or support to a person who is experiencing family and domestic violence;
  • a requirement that the employer approve all reasonable requests by an employee suffering family or domestic violence for changes to hours/patterns of work, job design or duties, location of work, email address or phone number. 

The Family Friendly Work Arrangements include:

  • an employee returning to work from parental leave is entitled to work reduced hours or part time unless substantial countersealing business grounds exist;
  • where the employer does refuse it must provide a written statement of reasons for the refusal;
  • if “entitled” the employee then has a right to revert to the original position for up to 2 years from the date of placement/birth;
  • the employee must give only 28 days’ notice of reverting to the former position;
  • any pregnant employee may for the duration of their pregnancy perform work in a “safe” job. Note, no apparent requirement to demonstrate the job is itself unsafe;
  • paid leave of up to two days for attending medical appointments etc. Note, separate to annual leave and personal/carer’s leave.

No timetable has been finalised for the determination of these claims. 

 

Union Common Claims – Casual and Part-time Employment

The ACTU also seeks major restrictions on the use of casual and part-time employees. 

For casual employees the ACTU seeks:

  • a minimum four hour engagement for each engagement.
  • a model casual conversion clause providing casual employees (other than irregular casual employees) with the right to elect to convert to permanent status after six months (other than the General Retail Industry Award 2010 and the Fast Food Industry Award 2010 in which case the qualifying period would be 12 months), which may only be refused on reasonable business grounds;
  • inclusion of a casual deeming clause in some awards where casual employees (other than irregular casual employees) would be made permanent after a six month period unless they opt not to; and
  • prohibitions on an employer employing more casual or part-time employees without first allowing an existing casual employee an opportunity to increase their hours.

For part time employees the ACTU seeks:

  • a minimum four hour engagement for each shift.
  • prohibitions on an employer employing more casual or part-time employees without first allowing an existing casual employee an opportunity to increase their hours.

No timetable has been finalised for the determination of these claims.

 

More information:
For specific information about the 4 Yearly Review and awards in your workplace, please contact the AFEI Hotline on 02 9264 2000.


To view other Adviser Update articles, click here