Changes to dismissal laws
January 2013 sees changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 and there are a few changes that employers need to be aware of.
Firstly, a name change. Fair Work Australia will now be known as the Fair Work Commission (“FWC”). This change is designed to avoid confusion between the tribunal functions of the FWC and the Fair Work Ombudsman who is empowered to advise parties and enforce the Act and Awards.
Secondly, the time limit for filing a General Protections claim and an Unfair Dismissal claim have been harmonised to 21 days. Previously, employees had only 14 days to file an Unfair Dismissal claim however they had 60 days to file a General Protections claim. This allowed employees to file an Unfair Dismissal claim initially in lieu of a General Protections claim in an attempt to get a quick settlement with minimal cost, then file a General Protections claim if the Unfair Dismissal didn’t give them a quick and satisfactory resolution.
The FWC also has increased powers to dismiss claims where parties do not follow directions or award costs against parties who unreasonably pursue matters or unreasonably incur costs for the other party.
Finally, there are changes to enterprise bargaining rules where unions and employer bodies can only act as bargaining agents where their organisation has representational rights. Agreements need to be made with more than one employee.
Dad and partner pay
As you may have heard, there is a new entitlement for dads and partners in connection with the birth or adoption of a child. The good news for employers is that, unlike paid parental leave for mums, this payment to dads and partners will be managed by the Department of Human Services.
The only element of this benefit that employers need to be mindful of is approving a period of up to 2 weeks unpaid leave for the dad / partner. If employers have a policy of not approving any unpaid leave, this may now need to be reviewed or updated.
To discuss these or any other employment matters, contact Nicole or John.