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What’s this Fairwork Thing?

Are you up to speed with the new Fairwork Industrial Relations? If you aren’t, you should be especially if you are an employer! This modern awards system together with 10 national employment standards began on 1st January 2010. There’s a lot to know about so please read on……..

What you need to know is that basically, there are 10 National Employment Standards which are a part of the Fair Work Act 2009.

 

Here is a description of the main standards:

  • Fairwork Information Statement

If you are an employer, you must provide all new employees with the “Government Fair Work Information Statement”. This is a requirement of the National Employment Standards. You can download a copy of the statement here: Fairwork Information Statement.

  • Modern Awards

The state-based industry awards have been replaced by the “modern awards“. Go to the Fairwork website for information on your new industry award. There are literally thousands of awards so if you can’t find what you are looking for, approach your industry association for assistance.

  • Flexible Working Arrangements

Parents can now request that they work more flexible hours to suit their family situation. They can also request a change of location in which to work such as working from home. Employers can refuse these requests based on “reasonable business grounds” but it is currently unclear what these grounds actually are!

  • Parental Leave

As was previously the case, employees can request to take 12 months unpaid parental leave. Now, they can also request a second 12 months on the back of the first 12 months. This new option has also been extended to same-sex couples. If an employee wishes to take a second 12 months leave, he/she must put his/her request in writing no later than 4 weeks before the end of the first 12 month period. Once again, an employer can refuse to permit the second 12 month leave period based on “reasonable business grounds”.

  • Cash Out of Annual Leave

Employees in a business with less than 15 full-time employees can cash-out of annual leave and personal leave. They can also take community service leave paid up to 10 days eg: jury duty and/or other unpaid leave eg: fire fighting.

  • Redundancy Pay

For companies with 15 or more full time employees, there are new redundancy provisions – 4 weeks for 1 year continuous service; 16 weeks for 10 years continuous service. Also, severance must be immediate.

  • New Fair Dismissal Code

While not a part of the National Employment Standards, it is important to mention the Fair Dismissal Code. This code assists both employers and employees to ensure that when dismissal occurs that it is carried out in such a way that it does not contravene the Fair Work Act 2009. Basically, the changes for small business are that an employee cannot make an unfair dismissal claim until they have been employed for more than 12 months; a simple code is available (see the website for download) for employers to use to ensure that they dismiss employees lawfully; the Fairwork Ombudsman will provide a help-service to small business employers who need assistance with dismissals.

Go to Fairwork Online for further information about these new industrial rules. There are also several helpful videos to view on the website which help to explain things quickly and easily!

  • Clare Gichard

    A little known unfairness (that may apply only in Victoria) is that under the so-called ‘modern awards’ a retail business that operates as a sole trader has to pay much higher wage rates for casual retail employees than a company would have to. A sole trader business is apparently a ‘non-constitutional corporation’ and the wage rates given in the calculators on the Fair Work website do not apply. But this is not stated clearly anywhere on the website.

    If the Government and Fairwork really had the interests of small business at heart and wanted to increase employment this anomaly would be removed. However, that wouldn’t help those of us already employing staff on these inflated rates as we would not be allowed to pay them less than they had previously been receiving.

    • Thanks for your comments Clare. I can see that perhaps all is not fair in the world of employment. Thanks for pointing this out to us. I suppose there are exceptions to every rule. Sorry to hear that this is negatively impacting the bottom line of your business. Have you called Fairwork to discuss your options (if any)?

    • Clare Gichard

      Thanks for your concern, Louise.

      The first person I spoke to at Fair Work confirmed what I had worked out as correct wages by using the Wage Calculator on the website. I phoned them simply to be sure that I had read it correctly. That was at 10 am. I went ahead and entered those rates in the employees’ payroll. At 4.30 pm a different Fair Work employee telephoned to inform me that the first person had misinformed me. Apparently the first one had not understood that I was enquiring in relation to a ‘non-constitutional corporation’. Well, I had indeed not used that term – never having heard of it before – but I had certainly said clearly that it was for a business operating as a sole trader.

      I was then brusquely told the correct casual rates for ordinary hours, Saturdays & Sundays, and ‘ordinary hours in a week in which there are two public holidays’ – all much higher than those a proprietary company would have to pay. No apology for the original misinformation. At my insistence on having the new information in writing, since it appeared nowhere on the Fair Work website, it was sent to me by email. So we are now stuck with those rates.

    • Wow what a disaster! As business owners we are dependent on these government services for accurate and correct information – we certainly don’t have all the answers! To receive 2 different stories on the same day is really not good enough. We need to know their advice can be relied upon at all times.