21 December 2011

Employment Law

The Commonwealth Minister for Employment & Workplace Relations has announced membership of and terms of reference for the Review of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

The three person committee - Reserve Bank Board Member John Edwards, former Federal Court Judge the Hon Michael Moore and Professor Ron McCallum AO - is to report by 31 May 2012.

The Minister's media release states that -
The Government believes the Fair Work Act is working well, but there is always room for improvement and I am very pleased these three eminent Australians have agreed to lead the review. They are all highly respected and will bring the level of independence and objectivity required for a review of this nature.

We will of course continue to consult with employer organisations, trade unions, employees, workplace relations experts and peak bodies throughout the review period and beyond.

The Fair Work Act underlines a balanced system for good workplace relations – one that promotes national economic prosperity and social inclusion for all Australians. Real economic prosperity and growth requires fairness and security in the workplace. This review reaffirms the Gillard Government’s fundamental commitment to these aims. ...

The review represents an important opportunity to have an evidence based discussion about the operation of the legislation and the extent to which its effects have been consistent with the Government’s objectives.
The Terms of Reference require the committee toexamine and report on -
The extent to which the Fair Work legislation is operating as intended including
• creation of a clear and stable framework of rights and obligations that is simple and straightforward to understand;
• the emphasis on enterprise-level collective bargaining underpinned by simple good faith bargaining obligations and related powers of Fair Work Australia;
vthe promotion of fairness and representation at work;
• effective procedures to resolve grievances and disputes;
• genuine unfair dismissal protection;
• the creation of a new institutional framework and a single and accessible compliance regime; and
• any differential impacts across regions, industries occupations and groups of workers including (but not limited to) women, young workers and people from non-English speaking backgrounds;

Areas where the evidence indicates that the operation of the Fair Work legislation could be improved consistent with the objects of the legislation.
The review will not examine issues to be separately addressed by Fair Work Australia as part of the review of all modern awards (other than modern enterprise awards and state reference public sector moderns awards) after the first two years as required by Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009 (Cth) Schedule 5, Item 6.

The Minister indicated that the review will draw on a range of sources regarding the operation of the Fair Work legislation. Key evidence gathering will include -
• the release of a background paper on the Fair Work legislation inviting stakeholders to make a submission to the review;
• meetings with key stakeholders/roundtable discussions to outline their experiences with the Fair Work legislation; and
vthe commissioning of any additional quantitative and qualitative data that may be required.
Qualitative and quantitative data collection to measure the regulatory impact of the legislation will include -
• the Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations’ Workplace Agreements Database;
• the Fair Work Ombudsman;
• Fair Work Australia;
• the Australian Bureau of Statistics;
• evidence sources developed by stakeholders; and
• other relevant statistical sources.