The Fair Work Act (Cth) was introduced by the Labor government in 2009 to replace the previous unpopular Work Choices legislation. The following is an assessment of the impact of this legislation on Australian workplace employees in two categories: the rights of employees and the protections afforded employees. For the purposes of this evaluation the most up to date Oxford Dictionary definitions have been used to define these categories. Through this, an employees rights afforded by the Fair Work Act refer to the “moral or legal entitlement to have or do something” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2010) with specific emphasis on the legal entitlement, whilst an employees protections afforded are “a legal or other formal measure intended to preserve civil liberties and rights” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2010). To understand the impact Fair Work Act had on Australia, an understanding on the industrial environment it was brought into will first be introduced explaining its origins, content and intentions. There will then be a discussion in terms of employee rights and protections and how they have been affected in reality compared to on paper followed by an assessment of the extent of these impacts on Australian workplace employees.
Background of the Fair Work Act
For several years before the introduction of the Fair Work Act national Australian election campaigns have been significantly focused on industrial relations issues (Cooper, 2009). Through this the Labor government and the different Union organizations of Australia, despite its popularity at inception, had repeatedly pointed out the flaws of the existing Work Choices system and many argued it created an environment where employers had an uneven amount of power over employees (Fenwick 2006; Stewart 2006). This lead to a political environment where industrial legislation was a particularly high-pressure topic with numerous conflicting parties to attempt to satisfy. Cooper (2009) discusses the ‘ambitious
Bibliography: Cooper, R. (2009) ‘Forwards with Fairness? Industrial Relations under Labour in 2008,’ The Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 285-296. Cooper, R. (2009) ‘The “New” Industrial Relations and International Economic Crisis: Australia in 2009,’ The Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 52, no. 3, pp. 261-274. Fenwick, C. (2006) ‘How low can you go? Minimum working conditions under Australia’s new labour laws,’ The Economic and Labour Relations Review, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 85-127. Forsyth, A. & Stewart A (eds) (2009) ‘Fair Work: The New Workplace and the Work Choices Legacy,’ Federation Press, Sydney. Gray, A. (2011) Protection against adverse action - the new protections available to employees under the Fair Work Act ‘Keeping Good Companies,’ v. 63, no. 4, p. 233-236. Oxford Dictionaries, (2010) ‘right (noun),’ Oxford University Press, Retrieved: 22/09/2012, URL: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/right Stewart, A Sutherland, C. & Riley, J. (2010) ‘Industrial Legislation in 2009,’ Journal of Industrial Relations,’ vol. 52, no. 3, pp. 275-287.