There has been some controversy around the recently passed Fair Work Act Amendments, notably the ones that address bullying in the workplace.
It has been expressed by employer groups that there was insufficient consultation with affected groups prior to the changes being drafted and concerns communicated that employers will be vulnerable to unsubstantiated claims from disgruntled employees.
All that aside let’s have a closer look at the changes and what you as an employer can do to ensure that you and your workers can work harmoniously whilst ensuring that obligations are met.
The family friendly areas that have changed can be divided into three main areas:
1. Parental leave
Concurrent parental leave extended from 3 to 8 weeks
No deduction from unpaid parental leave entitlement for maternity leave granted for pregnancy related sickness
Women with less than 12 months service can transfer to a safe job during pregnancy
2. Flexible work arrangements
Additional groups of workers will be entitled to request flexible work arrangements.
As an employer every request needs to be assessed on its merits and how the business will be affected is an important part of the consideration. Take into account:
How practical it is for the business
How productivity and efficiency may be impacted
By talking to your employee and gauging their needs a positive solution that suits both can often be reached when non-traditional options are considered.
3. Consultation about the changes to work hours
Employers will be required to talk to employees about any proposed changes to their regular work hours. Information needs to be given to employees that will be affected that outlines the changes, feedback then needs to be sought and taken into account prior to the implementation of the changes.
This is an opportunity for collaborative thinking within the workplace and an opportunity for both employers and employees to understand how the changes can affect home and family lives.
The changes to the act regarding anti-bullying and allowing employees the option to seek help directly from the Fair Work Commission have generated the greatest discussion of all the changes and many believe that it opens employers up to unfair claims.
To help you navigate claims of bullying that arise at your workplace you can:
Ensure that workers are trained about what behaviour is acceptable and not acceptable in the workplace – new employees need to be inducted when they commence work
Make sure that your workplace policies and procedures are always current and communicated effectively to all employees
Assure workers that complaints will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly
Follow up all complaints, investigate appropriately and deal with them suitably.
Union right of entry
Under the changes you are required as an employer to negotiate with the union and agree on a suitable place for union talks or meetings – the lunch room may be used as the default. You also have an obligation to organise travel and accommodation for union representatives if your workplace is remote however you are not required to pay for these arrangements.
How will your business be affected?
We want to hear from you, as business owners, how you think your business will be affected by these changes? Do you think that they are fair for employers? Will they affect productivity and ultimately your bottom line?