By Robyn Molloy
More than 100 HR professionals turned out to CCIWA’s Workplace Relations conference to hear from a host of guest speakers on what the future holds for HR, issues facing employers and a mock trial of an unfair dismissal claim.
Fair Work Commission Deputy President Abbey Beaumont gave an update on how the commission deals with enterprise agreements (EA) and how it takes a more diligent approach in checking EAs do not exclude any National Employee Standards and ensure employees are better off overall.
In 2011-12, the commission ticked off on 8149 EA applications from the 8565 lodged, compared with 2017-18’s 5287 applications of which 3803 were approved, including 2568 with undertakings.
Beaumont, who reviews eight to 14 agreements a week, says the best way to get an agreement approved is to “get it right the first time”, with resources available on the Fair Work commission website.
Other tips included:
- Checking applications for typos and signatures prior to submission and/or submitting the relevant forms and statutory declarations, should amendments be required after submission.
- Providing modelling of rosters for explanation of loaded rates (compensation for benefits) and how it was explained to employees that they were better off overall.
- If and old agreement is rolled over and there are no part-time or casual employees, ensuring clauses from the old agreement do not refer to part-time and casual employees.
- If annual leave accruals etc are described as percentages or days, including an explanation of the roster with reference to how they were calculated for a usual or shift workers.
- Referring to the FWC’s ‘Assisting parties to make compliant agreement applications’ document, which flags common issues and defects found in EAs.
She said the commission would soon release a smart form, which would alert applicants to issues early in the process.
Beaumont also preceded over a mock trial of an unfair dismissal, offering tips on what commissioners would looking for in arguments, evidence and witness statements which helped frame their decisions.
University of Technology Sydney’s Sarah Kaine, Research Director, Future of Work, Organising and Enterprises, Centre of business and Social Intervention, spoke about challenges facing Australian employee relations such as worker insecurity.
She said with all the hype around future of work, it gave the impression the biggest industrial relations issue was the “impending takeover of your job by a robot or an algorithm” but this was not necessarily the case.
“Consideration of the workplace of the future has become fixated on technological displacement almost to the point of hysteria,” she said.
“There’s little doubt that technological development will change the way we work, as it has done in the past but for most Australians the reality is much more mundane. The biggest changes in the work environment of Australians over the past 20 years have arguably not been technological.
“Few are sending their avatars to meetings or writing code. Many are, however, lamenting the paradox of feeling simultaneously overworked yet insecure in their employment. Others remain underemployed and a significant proportion contend with record low wages growth.”
Kaine said constructing an industrial relations framework that tackles the issue of insecurity as experienced by employees as well as from technological change would be confronting for both sides of the ideological divide.
Broadcaster, TV presenter, author and former lawyer and footballer Tony Wilson flew in for the day to MC the event.
Other guest presenters spoke about the gig economy, flexible workplaces, creating healthier workplaces, while CCIWA’s experts offered the latest advice on enterprise bargaining, workplace investigations, significant case law, safety and worker’s compensation.
► If you missed the workplace relations conference but need to brush up on skills, check out CCIWA’s range of safety and employee relations courses here.