Changes to Enterprise Agreements
Did you know that the Secure Jobs, Better Pay amendments to the Fair Work Act will change aspects of bargaining for Enterprise Agreements?
Many of the changes don't come into effect until June 2023 and we will discuss them in a bit more detail closer to the time; however, one of the immediate changes relates to the initiating of bargaining for a single-enterprise agreement.
The changes mean that instead of an employee bargaining representative needing to demonstrate majority support for the re-negotiation of an existing or expired Enterprise Agreement, they can simply issue a written request to initiate bargaining.
This change will make it easier for employees and unions already party to an Agreement to commence the bargaining process.
These changes, while considered significant by some Employer groups really just removes additional costly processes at the early stages of Enterprise Agreement negotiations. Custom and practice in Australia has been that once an Enterprise Agreement has been approved for a workplace, or portion of the workplace, as the Agreement must ensure employees are better off overall when compared to the Award, it is unlikely that majority support to renegotiate an existing or recently expired Agreement dos not receive majority support and this process has merely been a formality that takes up productive time for the workers affected and delays the process.
The removal of the majority support determination step only applies to single-enterprise agreements and does not apply to greenfield agreements or where a prior agreement was not already in place.
For small organisations, negotiating an Enterprise Agreement can seem like a daunting exercise and many small business owners and leaders are concerned about engaging with employee organisations; however, in some circumstances - especially where the Award that covers the employer is not quite 'right' for what you do and or creates additional administrative burden that could be avoided (and especially where the employer is already paying above-Award), it may make sense to enter into an Enterprise Agreement.
If your organisation would like to consider the merits of entering into an Enterprise Agreement, or would like assistance with the negotiation process, we are here to help.