Important updates to Industrial Relations Legislation

In the most recent sitting of Parliament a number of key bills were passed which have significant implications for many employers. It is important for employers to not only understand the new legislation but how it may apply to or impact their business.

Sex Discrimination
The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 makes a number of key amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. These changes will see discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status prohibited. It also protects same-sex de facto couples from discrimination after the protected attribute of marital status was extended. These amendments are to take effect on a date to be fixed by proclamation.

The introduction of the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resource Activity) Act 2013 will amend aspects of the Migration Act 1958. These amendments will deem that persons who participate in or support an offshore resources activity will be in Australian migration zones and as a result be covered by Australian workplace laws enforcing a requirement for an applicable valid visa to be held. These amendments are to take effect on a date to be fixed by proclamation.

The Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visa) Act 2013 will also make changes to the Migration Act 1958 (Migration Act). These changes will reintroduce labour market testing requirements for employers seeking to sponsor 457 visa workers which will require employers to show that they advertised locally before sponsoring a person on a 457 visa. This requirement will ensure that skilled vacancies will first be given to local citizens or permanent residents. The amendments will also give compliance powers to Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors to investigate any breaches of the Migration Act. These amendments are to take effect on a date to be fixed by proclamation.

Fair Work Amendments
On 27 June 2013, the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 (Amendment Act) was passed by parliament. The introduction of the Amendment Act brings about a number of significant changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act), including:

  • changes to parental leave, which took effect on 1 July 2013;
  • increased range of employees who are able to request flexible work arrangements, which took effect 1 July 2013;
  • increased consultation obligations where regular rosters or hours are being varied, which will take effect on 1 January 2014;
  • new union right of provisions, which take effect 1 January 2014; and
  • new anti-bullying measures, which take effect 1 January 2014.

The Fair Work Information Statement (Information Statement) which is required by the FW Act to be provided to all new employees has been amended and these changes have taken effect from 1 July 2013. The Information Statement now includes details of the range of circumstances in which an employee may request a change in their working arrangements and can be found on Fair Work Ombudsman’s website

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