Proposed Changes to the Fair Work Act 2009

Posted on 15 November 2012

On 20 December 2011, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Mr Bill Shorten MP, announced a review of the Fair Work Act 2009. The review was conducted by a panel comprising of Reserve Bank Board Member Dr John Edwards, former Federal Court Judge, the Honourable Michael Moore and noted legal and workplace relations academic Professor Emeritus Ron McCallum AO. The panel received more than 250 public submissions and liaised extensively with small business, big business, contractors, union representatives and members of the community.

On 2 August 2012, Mr Bill Shorten MP, released the Fair Work Act Review Panel’s final report, entitled 'Towards more productive and equitable workplaces: An evaluation of the Fair Work legislation' (the report). The report included 53 recommendations for the government to implement to improve the productivity within workplaces.

On 15 October 2012, the government announced that it would be implementing 17 recommendations of the Report, including several key changes to the Fair Work Act. The amendments will include the following:

  • Rebranding Fair Work Australia to be known as 'Fair Work Commission';
  • Extending the 14 day deadline for unfair dismissal application to 21 days;
  • Reducing the 60 day deadline for Adverse Action claims to 21 days;
  • Providing the Fair Work Commission with the power to award costs against applicants (and potentially their lawyers/agents) who have:
    • unreasonably failed to discontinue a proceeding; or
    • that have unreasonably failed to agree to terms of settlement that could have lead to discontinuing the application; or
    • that have caused the other party to incur costs through an unreasonable act or omission.
  •     Providing the President of Fair Work Commission to request further information from applicants to bring certainty to their claims; and 
  •     Introducing a process by which complaints can be made against tribunal members.

A major objective of the amendments was to retain people's rights and legal remedies but alleviating some of the difficulties small and medium enterprise have been dealing with since the introduction of the Fair Work Act. The government is hoping to introduce the first stage of amendments to the Fair Work Act before the end of the year. The remaining 36 recommendations outlined in the report will be introduced in 2013.