Does the Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018 (the Policy) require cuts to employment conditions?
Employment conditions include things like annual leave, personal/carer’s leave, allowances, overtime, penalty rates, parental leave and redundancy payments.
The Policy does not require cuts to these existing employment conditions. In fact, the Policy allows for some conditions to be traded-off in exchange for other conditions of similar value.
Enterprise agreements and other workplace arrangements such as determinations and common law contracts, continue to set out employment conditions and these remain enforceable.
Some people have confused administrative clauses that represent HR policy and procedures, or special arrangements for unions, with actual employment conditions. These types of clauses are not employment conditions.
What type of content needs to be moved into policy or guidelines?
Clauses that are administrative in nature are more appropriately contained in HR policies or procedures. For example, process detail about leave applications, the forms you need to complete, the systems you need to use, the steps you need to take, etc.
It is the procedural requirements relating to the administration of employment conditions that are more appropriately contained in HR policies.
Why can’t clauses about detailed processes be included in an enterprise agreement?
The Policy requires enterprise agreements to be clear and easy to read. This is to ensure employees can clearly understand what they are entitled to.
Over time, clauses relating to HR processes or practices have crept into enterprise agreements through each bargaining round. The cumulative effect of this is that many public sector enterprise agreements became long, difficult to read and inflexible.
In some cases, HR has not been able to make sensible changes to policy and procedures to improve productivity in an agency because arrangements have been locked into the enterprise agreement. There were also examples in agreements of clauses being in conflict with other clauses. This is not helpful to agencies or their employees.
It is in the interests of both agencies and their employees for agreements to be straightforward and flexible. This enables both management and employees to readily comprehend their rights and obligations. A straightforward and flexible agreement also helps managers and employees respond to change and challenges.
What if there is a disagreement about a workplace policy?
There are various review mechanisms available should there be disagreement about how a workplace policy is applied. These include:
- established internal agency procedures that deal with disputes about HR policies;
- review of actions provisions in the Public Service Act 1999;
- protections in the Fair Work Act 2009; and
- other legislation relating to matters such as anti-discrimination.
The review mechanisms available will depend on the circumstances.