A SENATE Committee has recommended a raft of workplace relations reforms previously dropped from a Fair Work Act amendment bill be passed by the Senate, including changes to union right of entry.

Referred to a senate inquiry on 3 December, the Fair Work Amendment (Remaining 2014) Measures Bill 2015 contains amendments that were removed from the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 for it to gain support from crossbench senators in October 2015.

In its report handed down on 4 February, the committee referenced submissions from AMMA, other industry groups and unions when addressing the practical issues the remaining reforms would address.

Right of entry changes ‘fair and reasonable’

In addressing the bill’s four changes to union right of entry laws, the committee noted that each attracted considerable comment from industry groups and unions.

All following proposed changes to right of entry were supported by the committee:

  • Removing requirements for employers / occupiers to facilitate union access to remote worksites by providing them with transport and accommodation.
  • Removing provisions giving unions ‘default’ access to employee lunch rooms for discussion purposes in the absence of agreement between the parties on an alternative location.
  • Amending the basis of entry for discussion purposes according to whether the union is covered by an enterprise agreement onsite or not. If a union is not covered by an enterprise agreement onsite, its officials must be invited in by a member or prospective member under a new system.
  • Providing the FWC with greater powers to resolve disputes over union right of entry.

Concluding that the provisions enabled ‘fair and reasonable entry for unions’ the committee said the changes would ensure union members could be properly represented while also recognising practical issues facing employers such as locations and the costs of excessive visits.

“The committee believes that the bill amends the Fair Work Act in relation to union right of entry issues in ways that are sensible and strike a reasonable balance between employees’ rights to representation and employers’ rights to conduct business without burdensome union right of entry provisions,” its report stated.

Ultimately, the committee supported all other remaining measures contained in the bill, which include:

Annual leave loading on termination: Requiring the amount paid for untaken annual leave upon termination to be at the employee’s base rate of pay rather than having leave loading applied even if leave loading would have been paid on leave taken during employment.

Accrual of leave while on workers’ comp: Removing the ability to accrue any leave for a period during which an employee is absent from work and in receipt of workers’ compensation payments. This precludes the accrual of annual leave and all other types of leave.

Individual flexibility arrangements: Requiring mandatory flexibility clauses in both modern awards and enterprise agreements to allow flexibility in relation to all areas covered by the ‘model’ flexibility clause.

Transfer of business: Providing that a transferring employee’s old industrial instrument ceases to apply to them in their new employment with a “related entity” of the old employer if the transfer was at employees’ own initiative.

Unfair dismissal hearings and conferences: Removing the requirement for the FWC to hold hearings to set aside unfair dismissal claims in particular circumstances, such as where the applicant has failed to comply with FWC instructions.

AMMA will continue to advocate for the senate to support the passage of the bill in its entirety and will keep members updated on any developments.

Click here to download the Senate Committee’s report which includes further detail on the amendments. Alternatively, please contact AMMA’s policy team on 1800 627 771 for a confidential briefing.