‘Flexibility void’ under IR laws

by 04 Mar 2008

A GAP BETWEEN the abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) and the introduction of new award flexibility clauses will cut out flexible employment options for individuals for months or even years, the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA) has warned.

While it welcomes the balanced approach to the Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill, it said some aspects could unintentionally cause headaches for employers and employees.

“There will be a flexibility void if AWAs are abolished without proposed award flexibility clauses being available for use immediately thereafter,” according to Charles Cameron, policy adviser for the RCSA.

“When concerns were raised about the abolition of AWAs and the resulting removal of flexibility for employers and individual employees, Labor assured us that including flexibility clauses into awards would solve that problem.”

However, it is now clear that such award flexibility clauses will not be introduced into awards until December 2008 at the earliest and then, only for some priority awards.

“Given that the process of award simplification has historically taken a lot longer than expected, we expect that the process of drafting flexibility clauses is unlikely to be any different,” Cameron said.

RCSA Members are worried that on-hired employees, who account for approximately 4 per cent of Australia’s workforce and are covered by hundreds of federal awards, will be left in limbo with no workable flexible employment option for months, if not years, he said.

“An interim award flexibility provision needs to be incorporated in to the legislation that would allow for Labor’s ‘upward flexibility’ as outlined in their policy ‘Forward with Fairness’. The application of such an interim flexibility provision could cease to apply when an award has the award specific flexibility clause inserted by the AIRC,” Cameron said.

Australian employers, employees and the economy cannot afford a flexibility void such as that which would play out under the current transitional Bill, he said.

Collective agreements are not suited to many of the employment arrangements applying to on-hired employment, given the prevalence of short-term engagements across multiple assignments, he added.

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