By Alex Millman
After a somewhat turbulent final month to the financial year, the time has come for all industries to take stock of what had been going on and what we can expect to see in industrial relations as we go into the new year.
Here are just some of the events that you may have missed, and should probably watch out for.
Vulnerable Workers Bill still in limbo
Despite the Government’s proclamation that the Vulnerable Workers Bill would be pushed through Parliament in the last weeks before the winter break, the Bill remains a forlorn item on the agenda of the Senate.
Unfortunately for those wanting certainty around the Bill, the Government’s education reforms – “Gonski 2.0” – stole the spotlight and pushed almost everything else into the shadows.
The Bill will now not be considered by the Senate until August at the earliest.
Senate inquiry into penalty rates
At the behest of Senator Xenophon, the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment will be conducting an inquiry into penalty rates in the retail, hospitality and fast food sectors, including the desirability of legislating away the effect of the Penalty Rates Case and the effectiveness of the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) with respect to enterprise agreements.
Submissions to the inquiry are due by 18 July and the Committee will report by 16 October unless the timeline is extended.
The extent to which the results of this inquiry will affect the deliberations of the Senate is unknown, but with so many cross-benchers without access to the resources of the major parties it may well be a major source of information on which those Senators can base their decisions. As such, any report from the inquiry will be a valuable insight into the views of the Senate in dealing with industrial relations matters during this term of Parliament.
Penalty rates decision under attack
For the moment, the outcome of the Penalty Rates Case allows employers to start paying lower Sunday and public holiday penalty rates from the first full pay period after 1 July 2017. Whether this will remain the case is yet to be seen.
The unions have lodged their appeal of the decision to the Federal Court, claiming that the Fair Work Commission incorrectly applied its powers in making the decision.
Multiple pieces of legislation are also before Parliament to try and legislate the changes away and prevent similar changes in the future. How the Senate views these pieces of legislation may well be determined by the inquiry mentioned above.
The outcome of these battles will have a profound effect on the industrial relations landscape for years to come, so all employers need to be ready for swift and sudden changes.
The industrial relations landscape is a volatile place at the moment; NRA will keep our members informed through our regular blogs and news updates.
Modern award review continues
As members will be aware after the announcement of 5 July 2017, the modern award review which commenced in 2014 continues slowly forwards, and appears to be reaching its final stages.
With this in mind, employers would do well to keep an ear to the ground for the rulings of the Fair Work Commission, as there is still scope for significant changes in the industrial relations landscape.
One thing to watch out for is the somewhat dully-named AM2015/2 – Common issues currently before the Fair Work Commission. This matter calls the Commission to consider an application by the ACTU to amend all awards to include provision for ‘family friendly working arrangements’.
Another one to watch for is the final result of AM2016/15 – the plain language re-drafting case. The final result of this case may well be a blessing to many, but time will tell whether changing the language changes the effect away from what employers have previously understood.
2017/18 promises to be an interesting financial year.
Watch this space.
For more information, contact the NRA on 1800 RETAIL (1800 738 245).