It has been 12 months in the making but the Rudd Government has now presented its Fair Work Bill (Bill) containing the election promise to re-write the workplace relations landscape. There are not many surprises in the Bill and employers will be aware from previous bulletins of the primary features and changes.
The Bill, upon commencement, will repeal the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Act) and become the Fair Work Act.
The Bill is significantly simpler, smaller and easier to follow than WorkChoices. However, as the legislation has been rewritten from scratch, there are a myriad of new terms, concepts and acronyms which will now become part of the vernacular. We have covered the major ones in the following summary.
Principally, this Bill sets up the basic structures of Labor’s new system: Fair Work Australia, the National Employment Standard and Modern Awards. Most of the other provisions largely reflect the law as it currently stands with some minor amendments. There has been a lot of media attention on the good faith bargaining provisions and union right of entry, but these provisions reflect the way the law stood from 1988 to 2006 so there is certianly nothing radical or unexpected in their drafting.
The best news is that employers have over 12 months to digest the changes before the majority of the provisions start to operate. The Bill will be examined by a Senate Enquiry and is expected to be passed through Parliament (provided it garners the support of the Independent Senators) in March 2009.