Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008

01 February 2008 Topics: Workplace relations and safety

Today Ms Julia Gillard, the Minister for Education and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations presented the Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008 to the Federal Parliament. The key provisions of this Bill are:

  • to prevent the making of new Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs);
  • to create new Individual Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs) to be available only for limited use during the transitional period;
  • put in place a new No-Disadvantage Test for future Workplace Agreements to provide better protection for employees; and
  • enable the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to undertake the process of
    modernising industrial awards.

Amendments to Workplace Agreements

The proposed legislation prevents employers making new AWAs. However, the Bill does not propose any changes to those AWAs which employers have made with their employees prior to this Bill coming into force. These AWAs will continue to run and to be terminated in accordance with the provisions that were implemented by the Howard Government.

The Bill introduces a new instrument called an Individual Transitional Employment Agreement, referred to throughout the Bill as an ITEA. It is intended that these agreements will be available for limited use to those employers who prior to 1 December, 2007 had AWAs in place with employees. ITEAs will have an expiry date
of no later than 31 December, 2009 and must not disadvantage an employee against any applicable collective agreement, award or any of the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standards.

The Bill has reintroduced the no-disadvantage test that was abolished by the Work Choices Amendment made in 2006. This new no-disadvantage test will replace the fairness test that was implemented in May of 2007. The purpose of the no-disadvantage test will be to ensure that no employee’s employment will be disadvantaged when compared with an applicable award or current standard. The Amendment Bill allows financial compensation to be provided in exchange for the removal of certain terms and conditions. However, unlike the fairness test it does not allow non-financial incentives to be offered as a replacement of the terms and conditions that would have been available to the employee under an award or collective agreement.

Award Modernisation

It is the Government’s intention that Awards and Notional Agreement Preserving State Awards (those instruments that contained the provisions of the old State Awards) be modernised and simplified as a matter of priority. The award modernisation process will be undertaken by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). Modernised awards are only to contain 10 matters and are to provide industry relevant details creating base standards of employment for each particular industry.

The modernised award system will not apply to high income employees. For those employees earning above $100,000 per annum employers and employees will be free to agree to their own pay and conditions without reference to Awards.

Conclusion

This is a preliminary overview of the content of the Workplace Relations (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill of 2008. Further bulletins will be provided.

Should you have any questions in relation to how this Bill will affect your current employment arrangements please to contact a member of our Workplace Relations Team on 07 3231 2444.

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