In Australia, a system of “Modern Awards” provides minimum terms and conditions of employment for employees in specific industries and occupations. Modern Awards apply to the majority of Australian employees, and they are read in conjunction with the ten National Employment Standards (NES) provided by the Fair Work Act 2009 (“FW Act”).
Contravening a term of a Modern Award may give rise to civil penalties under the FW Act of up to $63,000 for a corporation and $12,600 for an individual.
Under the FW Act, all Modern Awards are required to be reviewed every four years by Australia’s national employment relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission (“Commission”). Section 156 of the FW Act requires the Commission to review each of the 122 modern Awards in its own right, and to make determinations about varying their terms as appropriate.
The current four yearly review of Modern Awards commenced in 2014, and has taken much longer than initially anticipated. The President of the Commission, Justice Iain Ross, has now confirmed a “substantial majority” of the updated Modern Awards will come into force in early 2019.
The Commission received a substantial volume of submissions from trade unions, employer associations and other stakeholders throughout the course of the review. Justice Ross has confirmed the Commission’s review of the Moderns Awards also considered independent, qualitative research, based on focus groups and in-depth interviews with small businesses in metropolitan and regional areas of New South Wales and Victoria.
The revised Modern Awards will incorporate changes to part-time employment, annual leave, time-off in lieu of overtime payments, termination of employment, and rules relating to the payment of wages. In addition, Justice Ross has confirmed the revised Modern Awards will also incorporate “plain-English” amendments to help ensure Modern Awards are as easy to understand and apply as possible.