Published 24 October 2016
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has released its annual report for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. The FWC is required to produce the reports to the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, for review.
4 yearly modern award review
In accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), the FWC is in the process of reviewing modern awards. In the 2015-16 period, the applications to vary penalty rates in hospitality and retail awards progressed and terms to increase flexibility of annual leave provisions were finalised.
In addition, modern awards are being updated to make them easier to understand, for example, a plain language draft of the Pharmacy Industry Award 2010 was commenced.
General protections pilot
In the 2015-16 period, the general protections pilot was expanded to include all dismissal related general protections applications. The pilot involved using trained staff conciliators, rather than Members, to conduct telephone conferences for general protections applications, and was expanded due to improvements in timeliness, client satisfaction and settlement rates. After the extension of the pilot, 72% of participants reported they were satisfied or highly satisfied with the process, as opposed to 63% prior to the pilot.
Enterprise agreements pilot
A new process was introduced for approving enterprise agreements. This process involved having a team of administrative staff review whether lodged agreements met the statutory requirements, in part by assessing the agreement against a checklist developed by senior Commission Members. Commission Members still made the final decision on whether to approve an agreement or not.
The pilot improved approval timeliness and allowed trends and common mistakes in applications to be identified. In the 2015-16 period, 50% of agreement approval applications were finalised in 18 days, compared to 21 days previously, and 90% were finalised within 49 days, compared to 56 days previously.
Of the 5,529 enterprise agreement applications received, 5,449 were finalised with 56.8% finalised within 3 weeks, 95% finalised within 8 weeks and 99.2% finalised within 12 weeks.
Permission to appeal pilot
The pilot, which required an appellant to be granted permission to appeal by a Full Bench prior to the commencement of a substantive hearing, was introduced as the standard practice for unfair dismissal appeals. In the 2015-16 period, 94.8% of appeals were listed within 12 weeks and 98.3% in 16 weeks, whereas only 75.7% and 92.7% respectively were listed in these times in the 2014-15 period.
The Commission processed 14,694 unfair dismissal applications. 10,850 conciliations were conducted with 79% of applications finalised at conciliation. This was consistent with previous years. 14% of applications were resolved or discontinued prior to conciliation. There were 1,034 jurisdictional objections, which was higher than the 2013-14 and 2014-15 period. 74% of objections were upheld. The median time from lodgement to a conciliation conference increased by 6 days from the previous year to 34 days.
Of the 3,270 general protection disputes involving dismissal, 1,631 were finalised at conciliation, with 90% finalised within 103 days, compared to 97 days in the 2014-15 period. 15% were withdrawn prior to a conference and 25% were not resolved.
The Commission received 859 general protection disputes not involving dismissal. Similarly, to the 2014-15 report, 90% of applications were finalised within 54 days of lodgement.
The Commission processed 732 anti-bullying applications, receiving 61 applications per month on average. The median number of days to start dealing with an anti-bullying application was 1, with the longest being 5 days. 237 applications were withdrawn prior to substantive proceedings, higher than in the past two years. 191 applications were resolved during proceedings, which aligned with the 2014-15 period.
This content is general in nature and provides a summary of the issues covered. It is not intended to be, nor should it be relied upon, as legal or professional advice for specific employment situations.
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