This week, Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, announced amendments to the Fair Work Act. “Fair Work Australia” is no more: Now, the industrial relations tribunal will be known as the “Fair Work Commission”. The changes are the first of several amendment packages expected to implement recommendations made by an independent review panel in June this year.
Certainly, we have experienced first-hand the general public’s confusion over the terms “FWA”, “FWO”, “Fair Work Australia”, “Fair Work Act” and the Fair Work Ombudsman. This is one of the reasons cited for the name change. The other, according to Fair Work Australia’s President, Justice Iain Ross, is to promote the independence of the Commission in its adjudicative role as opposed to its other administrative functions. Fair Work Australia has been the subject of a lot of criticism over its handling of the HSU investigation. The President is at pains to demonstrate that this should not impact on the authority and reputation of Fair Work Australia – now the Fair Work Commission – in carrying out its judicial role.
As well as implementing changes to enterprise bargaining and unfair dismissal laws, the Minister also announced new powers for the President to intervene in the resolution of matters before the Fair Work Commission and to deal with complaints.
While the independent panel recommended more than 50 changes to the Fair Work Act and Fair Work Australia, we agree with the opinion of the Minister and the independent review panel that the legislation and the Fair Work Commission are generally working well.
Watch this space for news on more changes in this area in the coming months.
Guest post by Andrew Gordon, Solicitor, BlandsLaw