Period of grace on labour laws no real protection

EMPLOYERS can take no comfort in the State Government’s discretionary approach to compliance with the new Labour Relations legislation.

The Government has said it will not prosecute employers for honest mistakes during what it has called a “transition period”.

The Government says department officers will continue to take a discretionary approach to non-compliance issues as the new labour laws are bedded in.

“It is normal practice for the department to take an education and awareness approach with all businesses. Prosecutions are used as a last resort for consistent transgressors or those who deliberately ignore departmental advice on their obligations,” Minister for Employment Protection John Kobelke said.

Construction Forestry Manufacturing and Energy Union secretary Kevin Reynolds said his union would not take a soft approach to employers who failed to comply with the new agreement structure and would begin action from the day the employer-employee agreements take effect.

“They’ve had a honeymoon period for a year, it’s time they got on the ball,” he said.

Jackson McDonald workplace relations team partner Greg Smith said legislation did not provide for a grace period from prosecution and employers needed to be looking at alternatives before the Government announced the repeal of workplace agreements.

“It is no good looking at the issue when the workplace agreement actually expires, because the breaches may already be occurring, exposing an employer to possible fines and orders to pay underpaid wages,” Mr Smith said.

“I do not think a ‘period of grace’ offered by the Government means anything in real terms.

“Ultimately if a union chooses to bring an action against an employer for breach of an award, then they are entitled to bring the action.

“Employers need to know now, before the parts of the Labour Relations Reform Act abolishing workplace agreements come into effect, when their workplace agreements expire, and what are the terms and conditions of employment that apply to their employees when the workplace agreement expires.”

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