Millions of working Australians will benefit from increased flexibility and protections for vulnerable workers under changes to federal workplace laws introduced to Parliament today.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said the changes to the Fair Work Act would also deliver improved productivity and flexibility for business.
"The changes to the Fair Work Act will help modern Australian families balance work and home life through measures to increase flexibility in parental leave, rostering protections and broader access to the right to request flexible working arrangements,” Mr Shorten said.
Important measures to improve family flexibility include:
- extending the scope of the right to request flexible working arrangements to include carers, workers with disability, mature-aged workers, and workers experiencing domestic violence
- requirements for employers to genuinely consult with employees about changes to rosters and working hours, including the impact on their family life
- improving entitlements for workers who are pregnant, including changes to special maternity leave and the right to transfer to a safe job
- extending the time parents can take unpaid parental leave together from three weeks to eight weeks, and providing greater flexibility in when the leave can be taken
- an express right to request a return-to-work on a part-time basis after taking unpaid parental leave.
The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 also implements the Government’s response to key recommendations from the report of the House of Representatives Committee Inquiry into workplace bullying by providing a worker who considers they have been bullied at work with a right to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying.
"The evidence presented to the House of Representatives Committee shows that bullying is a real menace in our workplaces. It costs the economy as it damages productivity, but most tragically, it hurts people—sometimes with fatal consequences,” Mr Shorten said.
"We must do all we can to ensure bullying at work is identified, stopped as soon as possible and future bullying is prevented.”
The Bill also implements changes to right of entry laws in response to the independent panel’s recommendations.
"Changes to the entry rights will give more certainty for employers and help them remain competitive, while balancing the right for employees to be represented at work,” Mr Shorten said. Those changes include:
- more power for the Fair Work Commission to resolve disputes relating to the frequency of right of entry visits for discussion purposes, as recommended by the independent Fair Work Act Review Panel
- clarity about where discussions and interviews can occur during meal and other breaks
- measures to facilitate entry to remote sites with cost recovery measures for employers.
"The Government moved quickly last year and introduced a number of amendments in response to the Fair Work Act Review including changes to the unfair dismissal system, the structure and operation of the Fair Work Commission and a range of technical and clarifying amendments,” Mr Shorten said.
"The Government will continue to discuss with stakeholders options to implement the Panel recommendations going to improvements to greenfields agreement making and other intractable bargaining.
"The Gillard Government has been upfront and clear about our plans for productive and cooperative Australian workplaces.
"We will continue to put forward policies to ensure employees are protected, their caring needs are recognised and that employers have the flexible, harmonious and safe workplaces required for a successful, profitable business.
"With Labor, Australian workers and businesses know where they stand on important workplace relations questions.
"This stands in stark contrast to the Opposition, who still refuse to reveal their hidden plans for Australian workers.
"Australian workers and businesses deserve certainty and truth from the Liberal Party, not evasiveness and a policy in witness protection.
"The longer they hide their policies, the more apparent it becomes they have controversial and unpleasant plans for Australian workers. If they believe their policies are good for working people why not tell them," Mr Shorten said.
Mr Shorten’s Media Contact: Sam Casey—0421 697 660