Fair Work Act reviews: have your voice heard

by 17 Jan 2012

Employer groups are urging organisations to make submissions and complete online surveys about modern awards and wages as part of the upcoming series of reviews conducted by Fair Work Australia which are touted to involve significant changes to the Fair Work Act.

These reviews will have outcomes which will affect all employers, and employer advocacy groups are urging organisations to make submissions in order to voice their concerns over current legislation, and the probable impact of proposed changes.

  1. Modern Awards Review

Modern awards were implemented by the Federal Government as part of a broad plan to create greater consistency of minimum entitlements for employees, employers and entities within industries.

The modern awards are industry-based or occupation-based and apply to employers and employees who perform work covered by each award.

The outcome of the review, which is due to commence in the next month, will be announced on 17 November 2012. It will detail the approach that will be taken in order to weed out anomalies, such as managers or higher-income employees who may not currently be covered by a modern award even if one applies to the industry in which they work.

The review process calls for ‘evidence-based submissions’, and employers are called on to submit how they believe modern awards have affected their operations.

The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) has provided a survey to be submitted to FWA, and is available here.

  1. Annual Wage Review (AWR)

The Annual Wage Review (AWR) sets national minimum wages, and any changes come into effect from the first pay period on or after 1 July each year.

Making submissions (which can be anonymous) to Fair Work Australia is strongly advocated by employer groups, as it provides feedback on the impact of the previous years’ AWR decision (a 3.4% increase to the minimum wage was implemented in 2011).

Employers can make submissions to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), which prepares submissions to the AWR annually.

  1. Fair Work Act Review

Late last year the new workplace relations minister, Bill Shorten, announced that a review of the Fair Work Act would be conducted in early 2012.

It will be the first review since the Act was fully implemented, and will be an evidence-based assessment of the operation of the labour laws that the Act included.  Employers and industry leaders have said the panel must look at the Act's effect on productivity and competitiveness, and VECCI said it has particular concerns around:

  • dismissal-related legislation and process
  • lack of clarity around entitlements eg leave- loading on termination
  • industrial action
  • lack of flexibility and productivity outcomes
  • the increase in red tape for small business

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said employers would be looking for tangible outcomes which will further support the competitiveness of businesses in coming years amid volatile economic conditions.

“The test of the review will be the extent to which its outcomes support increased productivity and flexibility, reduce red tape and improve competitiveness,” Ridout said. “The panel members have an onerous responsibility presiding over the review at a time when Australia's competitiveness is declining and, integrally, productivity is flat-lining.”

The report will be announced by 31 May 2012. For further information related to the terms of the review, click here.


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