Enquiries, reviews and reports

Stephen Booth

The employment law and industrial relations system is undergoing two major reviews at present, so while there have been no major changes in the Fair Work Act and modern award system since late 2013, major change, or dispute about whether there should be major change, again, is impending. 

The major reviews are:

The Productivity Commission enquiry into the Workplace Relations Framework is intended to inform the Federal Government at a macro level about the desirability of major changes to the Act and the IR system generally. As the Government promised not to introduce major change before the next election, the Commission’s report is expected to provide a basis for Government policies, to be taken to the 2016 election so that the Government can obtain a mandate for proposed changes.

This will obviously be a highly sensitive issue in view of the effectiveness of the anti-Workchoices in 2006 and 2007, and the difficulties of the present government in getting public support for difficult changes (let alone getting them through the Senate).

The Productivity Commission’s brief is wide, with headline issues such as penalty rates getting most attention. The Commission is due to report by November this year (with a draft report issuing mid-year), and information about its enquiry can be found by clicking here.

On the other hand, the 4 yearly review of modern awards, being undertaken by the Fair Work Commission, focuses on the detail of modern awards. Legislated in 2009 as part of the negotiations to get the Fair Work Act passed, commencing in 2014, and continuing at least well into 2015, the review is intended to iron out inconsistencies and other issues which have come into view in the operation of modern awards over the last 4 years. The FWC timetable currently lists hearings into late May, so the exercise has some way to go yet.

Apart from particular content issues (such as the detail of award provisions which conflict with the National Employment Standards eg about annual leave), the review is also considering ways of making awards more user-friendly, such as simpler language, more examples, and readily available supplementary information which spells out what the NES say (so readers don’t have to go elsewhere to find this).

As the outcomes of both these processes come into focus, we’ll give you commentary on what changes are likely, and what they mean in practical terms.

For further advice on employment law and the industrial relations system please contact:

Stephen Booth, Principal
Phone: 02 9895 9222
Email: sbooth@colemangreig.com.au