Is There A Difference?
This article compares current workplace arrangements to Labour’s proposed changes. Current WorkChoices conditions are listed first. Opposition proposals are listed second and in bold.
1. Hours of Work
a) A maximum of 38 ordinary hours per week plus reasonable additional hours.
b) A standard week for a full-time employee of 38 hours plus additional hours but not unreasonable additional hours.
2. Parental Leave
a) 52 weeks of unpaid Parental Leave for the primary carer of the child, which may be shared between the parents provided that they are not concurrently on Parental Leave.
b) Up to 24 months of unpaid Parental Leave arranged as follows: each parent having separate periods of 12 months on Parental Leave, or one parent having the right to request an extension of Parental Leave for themselves from 12 months to up to 24 months, with such requests not to be refused by the employer except on ‘reasonable business grounds’.
3. Annual Leave
a) 4 weeks annual leave per annum for full-time employees (pro rata for part-time employees) with one additional week for (continuous) shift workers plus the ability for an employee to voluntarily cash in up to 2 weeks of annual leave per annum.
b) 4 weeks annual leave per annum for full-time employees (pro rata for part-time employees) with one additional week for shift workers. No voluntary cashing in of leave.
4. Personal (Sick and Carer’s) Leave
a) 10 days per annum with pay for full-time employees (pro rata for part-time employees) with up to 10 days of this being allowed each year for carer’s purposes plus an additional 2 days unpaid carer’s leave per occurrence for casuals or where an employee has exhausted paid Carer’s Leave entitlements.
b) 10 days per annum with pay for full-time employees (pro rata for part-time employees) plus an additional 2 days additional unpaid personal leave for genuine caring purposes and family emergencies.
. 5. Compassionate Leave
a) 2 days paid leave per occurrence of the death or threat to life of an immediate family or household member.
b) 2 days paid leave per occurrence of the death or serious illness of a family member or a person the employee lives with.
6. Community Service Leave
a) Currently, State legislation generally applies in situations where an employee is called up for jury service with an employer having the obligation to make up the difference between what the employee is paid by the court for jury service and their normal wage/salary. Under WorkChoices there is no specific guaranteed entitlement to leave for other forms of community service.
b) Leave for prescribed community service activities (e.g. paid leave for jury service and reasonable unpaid leave for emergency services duty) is to be guaranteed under Labour.
7. Long Service Leave
a) Long service leave entitlements are governed by State legislation which provide significantly different entitlements by State and, in some cases, portable long service leave.
b) Labour is proposing to develop a national guaranteed standard on Long Service Leave – in transition, guaranteeing the relevant State legislative provisions and that employees will not be disadvantaged in the move to a national standard.
8. Minimum Rates of Pay
a) Under WorkChoices, the minimum rates of pay are defined in Australian Pay and Classification Scales (as derived from awards and adjusted periodically by the Australian Fair Pay Commission) or the Federal Minimum Wage if no Australian Pay and Classification Scale is applicable.
b) Rates of pay will be as prescribed in awards and will be periodically adjusted by the new entity called “Fair Pay Australia”.
8. Notice of Termination
a) Under WorkChoices, employees are entitled to up to 4 weeks notice of termination of employment plus 1 additional week in the case of employees over 45 years with at least 2 years service.
b) Under Labour, employees would be entitled to up to 4 weeks notice of termination of employment plus 1 additional week in the case of employees over 45 years with at least 2 years service.
a) Under WorkChoices, redundancy payments are not ‘Protected Award Conditions’ and businesses with less than 15 employees are specifically exempted from these payments.
b) Labour is proposing that redundancy payments are a guaranteed minimum standard as per the 2004 Redundancy Test Case decision of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission for businesses with 15 or more employees no longer being exempt.
10. Information in the Workplace
a) From 20 July 2007, all employers are required to provide employees with a Workplace Relations Fact Sheet for the purpose of ensuring that employees are aware of their rights and entitlements under WorkChoices and where to go for further information and assistance.
b) When the Fact Sheet was introduced, Labour had already flagged its intention to make employers legally obliged to provide employees with a ‘Fair Work Information Statement’ about the employee’s rights and entitlements at work, including the right of the employee to choose whether or not to be a member of a union and where to go for information and assistance.
In summary, there are a few areas where Labour’s policy potentially introduces new entitlements for employees and new costs for employers, the main ones being:
1. Enhancement of the Parental Leave provisions to provide a statutory right for both parents to take 12 months leave as primary carer (albeit not at the same time).
2. Abolition of the option for employees to cash-in part of their annual leave entitlements.
3. The proposed move to a national Long Service Leave standard which will increase entitlements for most employees (and costs for most employers).
4. The extension of award redundancy entitlements to non-award employees by making these part of the national standard.
It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that we are getting the same horse but in another colour.