Upheaval of IR laws must stop

by 26 Jul 2010

The Federal Government owes Australians certainty in regards to industrial relations laws and the outcome of the election should not create further upheaval, according to prominent industrial relations lawyers.

Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein said he is hopeful that industrial relations law will finally be able to enjoy a period of stability.

"Industrial relations has been in a state of flux for a number of years because of frequent changes to federal workplace legislation which is a manifestation of the political debate that has been raging for at least 10 years," he said.

"Legal practitioners, but more importantly employers and employees, are still adjusting to the new [Fair Work Act] provisions. It remains quite difficult to navigate and considerable uncertainty exists for people who are affected by the laws."

Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Val Gostencnik told Lawyers Weekly he is hopeful that the Fair Work Act - which fully came into effect on 1 January this year - will not be subject to change, no matter what the outcome of the election.

"It would be good if we got a set of laws bedded down and tested through the courts ... We have had enormous amounts of change - quite complex and detailed - to the industrial relations landscape, and it makes it very difficult for employers, because they simply don't understand [the law] or don't have a chance to get used to it," he said.

"Particularly in the area of small business, you shouldn't have to run off to see a lawyer every time you want to know what you have to pay your workforce. The changes that have been brought about have generated a great deal of confusion."

Despite the coalition's vow that Work Choices will not be resurrected, Bornstein is concerned that the effect of the legislation can still be altered through manipulation of the Fair Work Act's regulations.

"Employers and employees have been kicked from pillar to post trying to constantly make adjustments to the changing laws. That has got to stop," he said.

"But although the opposition has said it is not going to change the legislation, it's been somewhat confused in its messages and still unclear about whether it is going to change the regulations [and] there is vast scope to actually change the effect of these laws through changes to the regulations."


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