2014: What will the New Year Bring?
In this article we look forward to what are likely to be the signi cant employment law and workplace relations issues in 2014.
With the new Coalition Government taking steps to implement its policy agenda, new anti-bullying laws and other legislative changes due to start early in the new year, and a further review of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the “FW Act”), it appears that 2014 will be as, if not more, eventful than 2013 in the employment law and workplace relations space.
In this article we examine issues and events which will impact on employment law and workplace relations in 2014. We will provide further updates on these issues and events, and any new developments in this area, through our various publications, seminars and webinars throughout the coming year.
New anti-bullying laws
Bullying will continue to dominate the employment law and workplace relations landscape in 2014, with the commencement of the new anti-bullying laws on 1 January 2014 (see our separate article on the anti-bullying laws in this edition of Strateg-Eyes).
It is expected that a large number of applications will be made to the Fair Work Commission (the “Commission”) in the first year of the new anti-bullying laws, and we anticipate that the law in this area will develop quickly, providing further guidance on the meaning and operation of these laws. As noted above, we will keep you updated on these developments throughout 2014.
From 12 March 2014, changes to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (the “Privacy Act”) will see the introduction of the Australian Privacy Principles (which will replace the current National Privacy Principles), changes around privacy policies and notices and further regulation around cross-border data disclosure. The changes largely relate to increased transparency in the management of information.
The impact of these changes in the context of collection, use and disclosure of employee information and records will vary from business to business. Please contact PCS if you have any questions about the impact of these changes on your business.
Productivity Commission Review
The Coalition Government has confirmed that the Productivity Commission Review of the FW Act will commence in or about March 2014. The terms of reference for that review have not yet been released.
In terms of the likely impact of the Review, the Coalition has previously stated that any recommendations arising from the review will form part of their policy platform for the next federal election (due in 2016).
As such, it is unclear to what extent there will be any further changes to the FW Act during 2014, other than in the areas previously nominated.
Minimum Wage Review 2014
For the first time in 2014 the Commission will introduce an early consultation process into the annual Minimum Wage Review, allowing for the hearing of witness evidence.
Subject to sufficient interest from the parties in that process (expressions of interest close 6 February 2014), the consultation process will commence in March 2014 and be finalised prior to the end of May 2014.
Consultation terms in awards
From 1 January 2014, amendments to the FW Act will change the consultation terms in awards and enterprise agreements to provide for consultation in relation to change in rosters or working hours that do not otherwise amount to a “major workplace change”.
The changes will require the employer to provide the employee with information about the proposed changes to their rosters or working hours, provide the employees with the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes, and consider the employees’ comments before a decision is made whether to implement the changes.
Unlawful termination claims
From 1 January 2014, the timeframe for making an unlawful termination claim under the FW Act will be reduced from 60 days to 21 days, to make the timeframe consistent with those for unfair dismissal claims and general protections claims involving dismissal.