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  • HR Heartbeat: The changes coming to the FWA in June, unfair dismissals, and...

HR Heartbeat: The changes coming to the FWA in June, unfair dismissals, and...

Explore this week’s HR Heartbeat for a look into the changes coming to the Fair Work Act, other changes on the horizon, how a casual employee is making his stand against an unfair dismissal and more.

First published on Thursday, May 11, 2023

Last updated on Friday, May 12, 2023

5 min read

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Everything you need to know about the latest trends impacting employers all over Australia. Keep up to date with the HR Heartbeat.

Let’s get into the headlines.

The changes start coming

Changes are coming to the Fair Work Act 2009 through the Secure Jobs, Better Pay updates.

These changes were announced late last year. But it’s worth a quick refresher, because next month (that’s June 2023) some of these changes are kicking in.

Which specific changes you ask? We’re glad you did.

  • Flexible working arrangements The categories of eligible employees have expanded to include pregnant employees and those experiencing family or domestic violence.

Employers will be obliged to make genuine attempts to reach an agreement with their employees on their flexible working arrangement requests made under the National Employment Standards.

What’s more, employees can also raise a dispute with the Fair Work Commission directly about these requests.

  • Unpaid parental leave Employees will have more options on how to request an extension of their unpaid parental leave.

And employers will once again be obliged to make a genuine attempt to reach an agreement with their employees about any requests made.

  • Enterprise Agreements and Industrial Action Changes will be made so multi-enterprise agreement streams are easier to access. Small businesses with fewer than 15 employees and general/civil construction companies are excluded from these changes.

But, there’s more to these changes than meets the eye. Caveats like the fact that unpaid parental leave and flexible working changes can still be refused by employers on reasonable business grounds. So, if you do want to make sure your business is staying on top of these changes, employment relations experts at BrightAdvice can help.

And they don’t stop coming

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Bill 2023 has been considered by the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee.

While it was tabled in parliament last month, it seems that the wheels of government have moved it forward.

The Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee’s report endorses the Bill and recommends passing the legislation. So, it looks like there’s another round of amendments coming your way soon.

Although there’s no timeline for when these changes may come into effect, the Bill proposes several changes. Including to the laws surrounding Unpaid Parental Leave, the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Scheme, and classifying interactions between the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Migration Act 1958 with regard to migrant workers.

Patterns speak louder than titles

Here’s a reminder to all employers that even though your casual employees don’t work every single week, there might still be a pattern to their work that may make their unfair dismissal claim stand.

That’s right, we’re starting with the lesson that a Bunnings store in Adelaide is learning the hard way.

A casual employee who was a full-time university student pushed an unfair dismissal claim against the store. Bunnings then attempted to push back against the claim with a jurisdictional objection. The commission dismissed the jurisdictional challenge and the unfair dismissal claim will now continue.

Here’s why. The employer claimed that the employee wasn’t a regular and systematic casual in the 6 months prior to his dismissal. But the commission found that out of the 26 weekends of the 6-month period the employee worked at least 1 day on 15 weekends, and on 11 of those weekends he worked on both Saturday and Sunday!

On top of that, the commission found that the employee organised his schedule well in advance. He also provided his availability to his employer over two weeks prior, and took screenshots of his rosters to put on his fridge at home. That’s about as committed as a casual employee can get.

You can check out the full case, here.

And the Award goes to...

The current application to vary the General Retail Industry Award 2020 (‘GRIA’) before the Fair Work Commission continues with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), Transport Workers' Union of Australia (TWU), and United Workers Union (UWU) going head-to-head.

The battle is over which Award should cover employees working in online sales, e-stores and customer fulfilment centres. This cover was usually provided under the GRIA, but the UWU and TWU are trying to change that. They want to move coverage of certain workers to either the Storage Services and Wholesale Award 2020 or the Road Transport and Distribution Award 2020 by amending the coverage clause of the GRIA.

If you’re wondering why everyone seems to have skin in the game, then wonder no more. With the workforce expanding to support the digital sales landscape, changes can affect union membership. Membership fees mean more money, so clearly everyone has their eyes on the money.

And that brings us to the end of this edition of HR Heartbeat. Check back next time for more headlines and all the latest updates that will keep you in the know with all the major employment changes coming your way.

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