The Federal Government has introduced legislation before Parliament that  it claims will provide increased flexibility for parental leave, rostering protections and broader access to request flexible working arrangements.

Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, said that the reforms to the Fair Work Act would also deliver improved productivity and flexibility for businesses.

Proposed amendments include:

  • extending the scope of the right to request flexible working arrangements to include carers, workers with disability, mature-aged workers, and workers experiencing domestic violence
  • requirements for employers to genuinely consult with employees about changes to rosters and working hours, including the impact on their family life
  • improving entitlements for workers who are pregnant, including changes to special maternity leave and the right to transfer to a safe job
  • extending the time parents can take unpaid parental leave together from three weeks to eight weeks, and providing greater flexibility in when the leave can be taken
  • an express right to request a return-to-work on a part-time basis after taking unpaid parental leave.

Mr Shorten said the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 also includes the Federal Government’s responses to the key recommendations from the report of the House of Representatives Committee Inquiry into workplace bullying. The amendments will give a worker as a victim of workplace bullying the right to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying behaviour.

"The evidence presented to the House of Representatives Committee shows that bullying is a real menace in our workplaces. It costs the economy as it damages productivity, but most tragically, it hurts people—sometimes with fatal consequences,” Mr Shorten said.

"We must do all we can to ensure bullying at work is identified, stopped as soon as possible and future bullying is prevented.”

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) has expressed its reservations over the proposed amendments, saying it fails to strike the right balance in achieving fairness for employees and employers.  

"As it stands, the Bill has several significant problems. It expands the entitlements of employees and unions in numerous areas including: union right of entry, bullying claims, award penalty rates, the right to request flexible work arrangements, parental leave, hours of work and rosters,” Ai Group CEO Innes Willox said.