The Coalition Releases Long-Awaited Workplace Relations Policy

by Madgwicks Lawyers, 13th May 2013

The Coalition's long-awaited workplace relations policy was released on Thursday, 9 May 2013.

Already being criticised by both employer groups (for being too cautious) and Unions (for being “ominous”), the policy includes 14 main points:

  • Keeping and improving the Fair Work laws;
  • Ensuring that the laws “work for everyone”;
  • Providing practical help to small business workplaces;
  • Guaranteeing workers have the right to access fair flexibility;
  • Delivering a genuine paid parental leave scheme and lifting female participation rates in Australian workplaces;
  • Giving underpaid workers a better deal;
  • Ensuring union right of entry provisions are sensible and fair;
  • Promoting harmonious, sensible and productive enterprise bargaining;
  • Providing better protection for members of Registered Organisations;
  • Ensuring workplace bullying is comprehensively addressed;
  • Re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission;
  • Urgently reviewing the Remuneration Tribunal for the trucking industry; and
  • Implementing the recommendations from the recent Fair Work Review Panel Report, which have not been implemented by the Government, including:
    • expediting the development of a national long service leave regime;
    • allowing non-monetary benefits to be counted in the enterprise agreement Better Off Overall Test;
    • ensuring that employees do not accrue annual leave while absent from work and in receipt of workers' compensation payments;
    • changes to flexibility arrangements;
    • ensuring that employers and employees are required to hold a meeting to discuss a request for extended unpaid parental leave, unless the employer has agreed to the request; and
    • ensuring that annual leave loading is not payable on termination of employment unless an award or enterprise agreement expressly provides to that effect.

It seems that the Coalition has been careful to avoid the political consequences of a WorkChoices-style policy reform, and has openly stated that it “will not re-introduce Australian Workplace Agreements, nor will it weaken safety nets or cause any Australian worker to go backwards…”.

The policy will now be debated in the public arena in the lead up to the election.