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The new age of industrial relations

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The Federal Government’s Fair Work Act (FWA) is essentially complete. Not-for-profit organisations should familiarise themselves with the changes in order to ensure compliance with the new legislative requirements.

Fair Work Australia

Fair Work Australia replaces the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the Workplace Authority and the Workplace Ombudsman as the principal organisation which oversees employment and industrial matters in Australia. The FWA does not distinguish between for profit and not-for-profit organisations.

National Employment Standards

These standards, in operation since 1 January 2010, together with modern awards and minimum wage setting, form a safety net below which employment standards cannot fall.

The standards include:

1. Maximum weekly hours of work
2. Requests for flexible working arrangements
3. Parental, annual, personal, carers and compassionate, community service and long service leave
4. Public holidays
5. Notice of termination and redundancy pay
6. Fair Work information statement.

Modern Awards

Fair Work Australia focused on reviewing non-enterprise Awards, reducing them to 120, which cover the majority of employees working in Australia.

Some Awards that may affect those working in the not-for-profit sector include: Children’s Services, Clerks and Private Sector, Nurses Award and the Social, Community, Homecare and Disability Service Industry Award.

Agreement making

Employers and employees can now make Collective Agreements, rather than individual statutory agreements (formerly known as Australian Workplace Agreements).

Termination of employment

Under the FWA, small businesses are no longer exempt from unfair dismissal claims. However, employees must complete a longer period of service before they can claim, and those who are genuinely made redundant will not be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim. Small businesses are also offered protection if they terminate an employee.

Workplace rights and general protections

The FWA now provides employees with a range of workplace rights which prevent them from taking adverse action against an employee.

Some of the most generally used definitions of a workplace right include the right of an employee to make a complaint or inquiry in relation to their employment and the right of an employee to coverage by an applicable Enterprise Agreement.

General protections continue to apply to employees, such as protection from discrimination and protection from termination due to temporary illness or injury.

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