Having a workplace where we feel comfortable, engaged and safe is important to most of us. We spend so much time working that our workplaces and the rights that are afforded in them are incredibly important and contribute greatly to how we feel and the life decisions that we make.
At the beginning of June significant changes were made to the Fair Work Act that can affect you as an employee and gaining a good understanding is important so that you know what you are entitled to when it comes to your workplace.
The amendments in a nutshell
There are three significant areas where the Act was amended and they are with the extension of family friendly work practices, anti-bullying measures and alterations to the right of entry for unions.
The improvement of family friendly work practices is always a welcome thing and the changes this time around can be broken up into three particular areas:
1. Parental leave
For parents that want to take unpaid parental leave together the amount allowable has been raised from 3 to 8 weeks and there is a greater inbuilt flexibility for how this leave is arranged.
Maternity leave that is used for illnesses related to pregnancy will not be deducted from the entitlement of unpaid parental leave and women with less than 12 months service in a workplace will have the same entitlement as longer serving employees to transfer to a safe job while pregnant
2. Flexible work arrangements
A wider group of employees now have a right to ask for flexible work arrangements. People such as carers, those over the age of 55, people with disabilities and others will be able to apply for flexible arrangements at work to help them manage what are sometimes difficult factors for positive outcomes – for them as well as their workplace.
3. Consultation about the changes to work hours
Once this change takes effect employers will be required to consult with employees about any changes to regular work hours.
Under the changes to the Act, any worker that believes that they are the victim of bullying in the workplace will be able to submit a complaint directly to the Fair Work Commission without needing to go the state authority.
The intention of this change is early intervention and prevention.
Union right of entry
An employer and the union are obliged to come to an agreement on where meetings with employees can be held, and an employer is obliged arrange transport to enable union delegates to visit remote and isolated workplaces where there is no publicly available transport – the employer however does not have to pay the costs, under these new amendments.
How will you be affected?
We would love to hear how these changes will affect you in your workplace. Has parental leave previously been an issue for you? Is bullying an issue where you work? Do you think that these changes will make getting work if you fall into a particular category even harder?