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Fair Work changes come into effect

December 07, 2015

On the 27th November 2015, certain changes came into effect in respect of the Fair Work Act 2009 (“the Act”) pursuant to the recent passing of Parliament of the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014.

The key changes to the Act which are of most relevance are as follows:

Parental Leave changes:

  • An employer cannot refuse a request by an employee who is on parental leave to extend that parental leave period, without first giving the employee a reasonable opportunity to discuss the request.

Greenfields Enterprise Agreements:

  • A union can only become a bargaining representative in respect of a Greenfields Enterprise Agreement if the employer agrees to bargain with that union. Therefore, if there are two or more unions with coverage in respect of a certain area of an enterprise, the employer can effectively choose which union it would prefer to bargain with.
  • The employer and the relevant union/s who seek to negotiate a Greenfields Enterprise Agreement must bargain in good faith for a minimum of 6 months.
  • This period will commence from the time that the employer notifies the union/s in writing that this 6 month period commences on a specified future date.
  • If, at the end of that period the parties have not reached agreement, the employer can nevertheless apply to the Fair Work Commission (“FWC”) to approve the agreement that it would like to apply in its workplace.
  • If the proposed agreement meets the Better Off Overall Test and also provides for pay and conditions that are consistent with those in the relevant industry for equivalent work, then the FWC must approve the agreement.
  • The agreement will be taken to be made when application is made to the FWC for approval of the agreement.

Protected Industrial Action:

  • The Act makes it clear that unions cannot take protected action to advance their claims in relation to an enterprise agreement before bargaining in respect of that agreement starts.

For more information on these recent changes to the Fair Work Act contact one of our National Retail Association Workplace Advisors on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).

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