New Year, new laws

by HCA06 Jan 2014
The New Year is shaping up to be an eventful one for employment law and workplace relations with law changes coming into effect and several more reviews on the horizon.
January 1st saw the commencement of the new anti-bullying laws, which HC has extensively covered in the lead up. People + Culture Strategies senior associate, Alison Spivey, stated it is expected a large amount of applications will be made to the Fair Work Commission throughout the year and that the law relating to this will advance swiftly to allow legal experts to provide more guidance on the meaning and operation of the laws.

From the beginning of the year amendments to the Fair Work Act (FW Act) changed the consultation terms in awards and enterprise agreements to provide for consultation in relation to change in rosters or working hours that do not otherwise amount to a "major workplace change".

Spivey stated these changes require the employer to provide employees with “information about the proposed changes to their rosters or working hours, provide the employees with the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes, and consider the employees' comments before a decision is made whether to implement the changes”.

The timeframe for making an unlawful termination claim under the FW Act was also reduced from January 1 from 60 days to 21 days.

Looking forward to the rest of the year, HR professionals need to be aware of changes being made to the Privacy Act 1988. From March 12 the Australian Privacy Principles will be introduced to replace the current National Privacy Principles along with changes around privacy policies and regulation around cross-border data disclosure. Spivey said the impact of the changes in relation to collection, use and disclosure of employee information and records will vary from business to business.

The Coalition Government has also confirmed that around March the Productivity Commission Review of the FW Act will begin, however terms of reference for that review have yet to be released.

Spivey stated the Coaltion has previously stated that any recommendations arising from the review will form part of their policy platform for the next federal election therefore “it is unclear to what extent there will be any further changes to the FW Act during 2014, other than in the areas previously nominated”.

Meanwhile the Fair Work Commission has, for the first time, introduced an early consultation process into the annual Minimum Wage Review, which allows for the hearing of witness evidence. Expressions of interest close on February 6 and the consultation process will begin in March and will be finalised prior to the end of May. This is subject to interest and may be cancelled if there is a lack of interest shown.

Related articles:
Last call for anti-bullying compliance
Workplace laws: Don't let your organisation be a martyr for new legislation




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