The Australian Government has successfully passed long overdue legislation improving the enterprise agreement approval process and abolishing the compulsory four-yearly review of modern awards.

Last week’s passage of the Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill addressed impracticalities and inflexibilities within the IR system and was supported by both employer group and unions.

This was a longstanding piece of workplace relations legislation which remained before Parliament at the end of 2017 and was one of many advocacy focus points for AMMA this year.

The biggest benefit of the Bill for AMMA members is that it overcomes the requirement for the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to enforce strict compliance with the Notice of Employee Representational Rights (NERR) in the enterprise bargaining process.

The FWC will now have the capacity to approve agreements despite minor procedural or technical errors made during enterprise bargaining, as long as the errors would not disadvantage employees.

Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations Kelly O’Dwyer described the change as “common sense”.

“Under the current arrangements we have seen unintended, and sometimes absurd, outcomes which have caused lengthy delays,” the Minister.

“For example, the Fair Work Commission has rejected an enterprise agreement where an employer printed the notice to employees at the start of the bargaining process onto a piece of paper with the company letterhead on it, rather than a plain piece of paper.

“These changes will allow agreements reached between employers and employees to take effect sooner and deliver pay rises earlier.”

A second key area of the legislation is to remove the requirement for the FWC to conduct four-yearly reviews of modern awards. This has proved to be a costly and inefficient process, viewed by all parties as largely unnecessary.

Instead, in a move supported by both unions and employer groups, modern awards can be reviewed on an as-needs basis to ensure they remain a relevant and fair minimum safety net.

In AMMA’s report released this month, A New Horizon: Guiding Principles for the Future of Work, it was highlighted that Australia’s antiquated and cumbersome system of industrial awards should be abolished.

AMMA called for a significantly simplified safety net that ended the award system and created universal minimum standards of employment, providing adequate protections for those who may be in need.

“Australia’s antiquated industrial award system – comprised of 122 sets of minimum standards applying across historical, outdated industry categories – is a particularly confused, unnecessary part of the current workplace system,” the report stated.

Employers believe a significantly simplified safety net would serve its purpose of protecting the vulnerable, while improving efficiency and productivity and reducing compliance and administrative costs of high-paying businesses.

For more information on this legislation or any other workplace policy matter, contact [email protected].