Workplace laws for Queensland public sector employees are about to undergo a significant realignment, with the introduction of the Industrial Relations Bill 2016 into State Parliament last week.
The Bill, which is a weighty 796 pages, is based on the recommendations of the Palaszczuk Government's independent review chaired by Mr Jim McGowan AM (McGowan Review), which:
- reflect that Queensland's industrial relations jurisdiction now almost exclusively covers Queensland and local government employees; , and
- align the workplace relations framework for the State's public sector employees more closely with the Federal Fair Work Act.
Given the Bill's complexity, this Alert will only give a snapshot of its key features ‒ we'll delve into the detail in the coming weeks.
The Industrial Relations Bill at a glance
The Bill would repeal the Industrial Relations Act 1999 (Qld), and amend dozens of Queensland Acts, most importantly the:
- Anti-Discrimination Act 1991;
- Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011;
- Ombudsman Act 2001;
- Public Service Act 2008; and
- Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003.
At its heart, according to the Minister, are:
- "a set of minimum employment conditions and standards;
- collective bargaining as a cornerstone for setting wages and conditions;
- a set of individual rights to fair treatment;
- effective, transparent and accountable governance and reporting obligations for all registered industrial organisations and employer associations; and
- a strong and effective independent umpire."
Minimum employment standards
The Bill will retain the Newman Government's adoption of minimum core employment standards, and will further align them to the National Employment Standards. This will include standards for parental, carers' and compassionate leave, and a mandatory information statement when an employee starts work.
Contemporary and emerging IR matters such as workplace bullying, domestic and family violence, gender equality, work-life balance, and changes in standard working arrangements have all been recognised in the Bill.
It will introduce:
- workplace bullying remedies similar to those available under the Fair Work Act;
- general protections to protect public sector employees from adverse action similar to those available under the Fair Work Act;
- an entitlement to paid leave for victims of domestic and family violence (with Queensland the first State to do so); and
- a right to request flexible work arrangements.
Collective bargaining will continue to be the basis of establishing wages and employment conditions of state and local government employees.
The Bill is intended to reflect the McGowan Review's recommendation for a modified collective bargaining model in which the objective of bargaining is to reach agreement. Arbitration is triggered only as a last resort.
The Bill provides the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) with exclusive jurisdiction to deal with all workplace related anti-discrimination matters. Currently, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) has jurisdiction to hear such matters.
Workplace anti-discrimination matters will continue to be dealt with by the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland in the first instance.
The Minister says that the Bill will "ensure reporting, training and other obligations are directed at ensuring accountability to members". Financial reporting requirements for industrial organisations and the training requirement for officers with financial management duties will be similar to those of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.
Next steps for the Industrial Relations Bill 2016
The Bill has been referred to the Finance and Administration Committee, which must report by 28 October 2016.