In addition to the well-publicised anti-bullying measures introduced on 1 January 2014, there are several other changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 that also came into effect on 1 January and have implications for employers.
The legislation includes a new requirement for all modern awards and enterprise agreements to include a clause requiring employers to consult with employees, where employers propose making changes to the employees’ regular roster or working hours. The requirement contained in s.145A of the Act is that the employer:
- provides information to the employees about the change;
- invites employees to give their views about the impact of the change (including any impact on family or caring responsibilities); and
- considers the employees’ views about the impact of the change.
The legislation also provides that the employee is permitted to have a representative present during the consultation, thereby giving the employee the ability to have someone advocate on their behalf in relation to the proposed changes (as opposed to merely being present to provide support for the employee).
Implications for employers
Employers therefore need to ensure that, prior to making any changes to its employees’ regular roster or working hours, it follows the procedure outlined in the legislation. That is, the employer must:
- properly consult with the employees (in a similar way to the consultation regarding major workplace change),
- ensure that the affected employees have an opportunity to give their views on the proposed change, and
- take into account any views expressed by the employees as part of the consultation. That is not to say that the employer must accept and act on any objections to the change, but there is evidence, preferably documented, that the employer has taken into account those objections or views.
Other amendments to the Fair Work Act include changes to the right of entry, the ability of the Commissioner to have certain matters dealt with by arbitration, a 21 day time-frame for dismissal applications and changes to superannuation terms.
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