• Getting the House in Order—Update on Government Workplace Relations Policy
  • December 20, 2013 | Author: Adam Salter
  • Law Firm: Jones Day - Sydney, New South Wales Office
  • As the clock strikes 100 days since the Coalition government came to power, we thought it was time to review progress on several of the Federal Government's promised industrial relations changes.

    Not Averse to Reaction When It Comes to Adverse Action. During the election campaign the Coalition undertook to clarify that the subjective intention of the decision-maker is the central consideration when it comes to employers making decisions which have an adverse effect on employees. The Coalition had also promised to convene an Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry into the reverse onus of proof. Though there is not yet any indication as to when any changes will be introduced, the Fair Work Commission has issued a draft bench book for general protections matters and is seeking public comments by 27 December 2013.

    Union Regulation. The Coalition flagged the introduction of new union official duties as well as a new regulator (to sit within the Fair Work Ombudsman). The Government has now introduced the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill which passed through the Federal lower house, the House of Representatives, on 12 December 2013. The Bill, if passed in its current form, proposes several changes which will take effect early next year, including:

    • establishing an independent authority from 1 July 2014 within the Fair Work Ombudsman to monitor and regulate registered organizations (i.e. unions);

    • new investigations powers;

    • increasing disclosure requirements of earnings of top union officers; and

    • increasing penalties including criminal penalties for breaches of officers' duties (these are likely to reflect obligations of directors pursuant to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)).