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With the commencement of Modern Awards on 1 January 2010 there were a number of applications made by certain employer groups seeking amendment to the General Retail Award, 2010 which were subsequently determined by Fair Work Australia.

In a full bench decision of FWA last week, the applications were determined resulting in a number of changes to the Award which we briefly summarise in this document: Blandslaw retail changes.

On 25 November 2008, Workplace Relations Minister, Julia Gillard, introduced into Parliament the awaited Fair Work Bill 2008. Earlier this year, transitional legislation was introduced, removing AWAs, introducing a "no disadvantage test" for agreements and beginning the award modernisation process.

The new Fair Work Bill seeks to implement the remaining changes save for a further transitional and consequential changes bill which is to be introduced next year that will "explain how existing employers and employees move to the new Forward with Fairness arrangements".

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Circumstances may arise in which the employment of your employees need to be terminated. Termination attracts various legal obligations of which employers ought to be mindful in order to avoid or minimise litigious repercussions.

From 1 July next year, the Federal Government's changes to the Work Choices unfair dismissal laws will take effect, which will in turn alter the current legislative termination landscape.

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Directors and managers have onerous obligations and personal liability under occupational health and safety laws. Different provisions apply across the country however, regardless of where the workplace activities are being undertaken, the obligations and duties on directors and managers are particularly onerous.

In all jurisdictions except for New South Wales and Queensland, the primary obligation requires an employer to take all reasonable and/or practicable steps to ensure or provide a safe working environment or to protect the health and safety at work of employees.

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The Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008 was tabled in parliament on 13 February 2008. This Bill is an amendment to the Workplace Relations Act 1996, effectively making a number of changes to the framework for workplace agreements.

The amendments proposed by the Bill are intended to give effect to the Government’s election commitments and begin the transition to a new workplace relations system.

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The incoming Rudd Government has announced that a transition bill addressing a ban on new AWAs, defining its 10 minimum employment standards and award simplification process will be introduced in the first sitting of the new parliament next year, with legislation for Labor's full workplace policy to become effective from 1 January 2010, to be later introduced. The first sitting day next year for both houses is 26 February 2008.

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A recent decision in the Federal Court highlights the importance of the content of company policy documents provided to employees and the need to ensure compliance with the processes and standards set out in such policy documents.

We recommend you carefully consider whether the terms of any policies or procedures that provide benefits to employees, or impose obligations on your business, are intended to be contractually binding on both you and your employees. It may be appropriate, for example, to clearly distinguish between “aspirational” statements and clear directions you expect employees to follow, or clear procedures that employees can reasonably expect your business to follow.

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