Legislative changes from 1 January: are you ready?

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The majority of changes to the Fair Work Act announced by the Federal Government in October are set to become law from 1 January 2013.

Chief among the changes is the amendment to the timeframe for applicants to lodge unfair dismissal claims relating to termination to a uniform 21 days. The changes have been applauded as a significant win for employers – the new uniform time limit will streamline the process which currently ranges from 14 to 60 days in which to lodge a claim.

The following amendments are a result of the recommendations made by the Fair Work Act Review panel:
 

  • Changed timelines for lodging both unfair dismissal and general protections claims regarding the termination of employment to 21 days.
     
  • Increased scope for seeking cost orders where an applicant or an applicant’s representative pursues an unfair dismissal claim without merit.
     
  • Changes to Fair Work Australia, including changing its name to the Fair Work Commission and increasing the powers of the President.
     
  • Changes to enterprise agreement content and processes.
     
  • Changes to the process of applying to vary modern awards.
     
  • The establishment of an ‘Expert Panel’ to deal with minimum wage decisions and default superannuation funds in modern awards.

From 1 January, 2014, the amended provisions of the Act concerning default superannuation fund terms in modern awards will also take effect.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said that the changes will also empower Fair Work Australia to dismiss unfounded ‘vexatious’ claims from the outset. “We accept the proposition that we need to provide absolute certainty for small and medium-sized enterprises so that claims which are without merit, if they continue to be pursued, can either be dismissed or alternatively the person making the claim...that they should carry the risk of paying the costs,” Shorten said at the time of the announcement.

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