In June 2013, the federal government was successful in securing significant changes to the Fair Work Act through the federal parliament despite strong opposition from the conservative parties.
The amendments provide important workplace changes including:
• expanding the right of pregnant women to transfer to a safe job;
• providing greater flexibility in relation to the unpaid parental leave;
• ensuring that any special maternal leave taken does not reduce an employee’s entitlement to unpaid parental leave;
• expanding access to the right to request flexible working arrangements;
• requiring employers to consult with employees about the impact of changes to regular rosters for hours of work, particular in relation to family and caring responsibilities;
• requiring the Fair Work Commission to take into account the need to provide additional payment for employees working overtime, unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours, working on weekends, public holidays or shifts;
• improving the rights of union representatives to visit the workplace; and
• allowing the employee who has been bullied at work to seek redress through the Fair Work commission.
The ANF campaigned strongly in support of the amendments as it considered that the changes would improve the working lives of nurses. The ANF supported the proposed amendments in relation to special maternity leave considering it was appropriate that nurses who need to take special maternity leave do not have their 12 months of unpaid maternity leave reduced by reason ie. illness during pregnancy. The ANF also supported changes to extend a period of parental leave that may be taken concurrently by parents.
As rostering arrangements in nursing have significant ramifications to hours and entitlements ANF supported changes that would require modern awards to contain requirements for employers to consult with employees about changes to the regular roster or ordinary hours of work.
We welcomed new regulations that require the industrial tribunal to have particular regard for the need to provide additional payment for employers working overtime, shifts and weekends. Most nurses and midwives work at least some of their shifts outside regular business hours of 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday and frequently work overtime.
Accordingly it is essential they receive penalty rates for working these unsociable hours. The amendments go some way to making it more difficult to remove such provisions.
Further detail on the changes and the ANF response can be viewed at: http://anf.org.au/documents/submissions/House_Inquiry_into_the_Fair_Work_Amendment_Bill_2013_Submission.pdf