Industrial awards no longer reign supreme

IN WA, traditional industrial awards no longer reign supreme.

Employers are now entering into flexible workplace agreements with their employees in the search for higher productivity and industrial peace.

The two types of workplace agreements are Australian Work-place Agreements and Workplace Agreements.

Created under Commonwealth law, an Australian Workplace Agreement is a pay agreement between an employer and an employee about terms and conditions, including pay, hours of work, annual leave and sick leave.

While an AWA is operating, the previous award has no effect and this allows the parties to agree on matters that the old award may have restricted or prohibited.

Although AWAs allow flexibility, they must satisfy the ‘no disadvantage’ test which compares the employee’s position under the AWA with what it was under the award.

Unfortunately, the Australian Constitution prevents some employers – including sole traders and partnerships – from entering into AWAs.

Like AWAs, State-based agreements made under the Workplace Agreements Act are between employers and individual groups or employees.

As with AWAs, Workplace Agreements eliminate the impact of any award that may have operated previously.

Although not subject to a ‘no disadvantage’ test, Workplace Agreements must conform to minimum standards found in WA’s Minimum Conditions of Employ-ment Act.

Under this Act, all employees in WA are entitled to certain minimum conditions of employment.

One advantage of State-based workplace agreements over AWAs is that there are no constitutional limitations which exclude some employers.

Although the trade union movement continues to oppose AWAs and workplace agreements, these ‘new age’ agreements are becoming more widespread – and are generally finding favour with both employers and employees.

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