Modern workplace relations

  • Australia needs a modern workplace relations system that delivers a safety net for workers, recognises the shared interests of managers and workers in an enterprise's success, and gives all enterprises the agility they need to compete and succeed.
  • The Business Council believes the system’s current architecture should be maintained:
    • An economy-wide safety net (Minimum Wage Order, National Employment Standards and General Protections).
    • An industry-specific safety net (Modern Awards).
    • Enterprise-specific agreements (Enterprise Bargaining Agreements).
    • Independent governance bodies to enforce minimum conditions.
      • Fair Work Commission
      • Australian Building and Construction Commission
      • Registered Organisations Commission.
    • The Business Council has made a range of proposals for how to reform the workplace relations system in the following submissions. Details of key recommendations are also shown below:

View submission to the Productivity Commission's workplace relations inquiry draft report

View submission to the Productivity Commission’s Workplace Relations Inquiry

Creating Jobs in the Age of Disruption: Speech by Jennifer Westacott

Analysis of trends in enterprise bargaining is available here: The state of enterprise bargaining in Australia

  • Collapse the number of awards from 122 to one for each industry group.
  • Streamline awards to their core purpose of establishing a floor for wages and conditions. Clauses in awards should be limited to:
    • Agreement in writing to pattern of hours of work (part-time workers)
    • Allowances for travel costs/times and transport
    • Apprenticeship requirements
    • Employment categories, including definition of a shift worker
    • Industry specific redundancy schemes
    • National training wage, and allocation of traineeships to wage levels
    • Ordinary hours of work
    • Rostering issues, limited to maximum days of work, maximum hours per day; meal breaks, minimum break between times worked and minimum engagement
    • Wage classifications (up to a maximum of 5 categories per award).
  • Retain penalty rates but modernise them to reflect the 24/7 nature of some industries. Move penalty rates into the Minimum Wage Order.
  • Ensure agreements have focus on the unique circumstances of the enterprise and its workers by limiting their content to clauses relating to the employment relationship.
    • Clauses in agreements should be limited to:  
    • Allowances
    • Employment categories
    • Leave arrangements
    • Notifications
    • Ordinary hours
    • Remuneration
    • Rostering issues, limited to maximum days of work, maximum hours per day
    • And, meal breaks, minimum break between times worked and minimum daily engagement.
    • Require workers to specify in writing their bargaining representatives.
    • Introduce good faith bargaining for new project (greenfields) agreements.
    • Allow enterprises to request the Fair Work Commission to ratify a new project agreement after a proscribed period, where negotiations have broken down.
    • Rework the BOOT (Better Off Overall Test) to allow enterprise agreements to be approved if employees covered by the agreement “on the whole’’ are better off under the agreement compared to the award. This would reinstate the “no disadvantage test’’.
    • Require that majority support determinations be obtained before protected action ballot orders can be obtained, and it be done by secret ballot.
  • Enable the Fair Work Commission to suspend the capacity to take all protected industrial action for a period of up to 90 days in circumstances where a bargaining representative is found capriciously or unreasonably to have notified and withdrawn notice of protected industrial action. Retain right of entry provisions with the following amendments:
    • Only allowing right of entry when a representative has a member.
    • Permitting representatives to enter communal spaces, including lunch rooms, following agreement from the enterprise, or where an enterprise refuses to offer an alternate room.
  • Introduce individual agreements, using safety net provisions or an enterprise agreement as the basis for the agreement, and apply a no-disadvantage test.
  • High-income workers should be able to trade off their safety net rights in negotiating individual agreements, and not subject to a no-disadvantage test.
  • Implement the Productivity Commission’s 2015 recommendations to improve the governance, administration and accountability of the Fair Work Commission.
  • Retain the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission.