Last week, the Queensland Parliament passed the Industrial Relations Bill 2016. This Bill is to commence operation in early 2017, as the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (IRA 2016).

The IRA 2016, repeals and replaces the current Industrial Relations Act 1999. In doing so it mostly adopts the existing Industrial Relation Act and employment standards (albeit with re-numbered sections) and makes minor consequential amendments to other legislation such as the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, the Public Service Act 2008 and the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003.

The IRA 2016, does however, contain some major reforms including:

  • anti-bullying provisions and protections and adverse action type claims which are very similar to those in the Fair Work Act 2009
  • provisions that allow all workers to request flexible working arrangements;
  • greater access by part-time and casual employees to full-time positions
  • a declaration of Easter Sunday as a public holiday
  • the provision of 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave (DFV Leave) and leave entitlements for carers of the victims of domestic or family violence (DFV leave is additional to sick leave and carers leave); and
  • provisions relating to governance and reporting obligations for registered industrial organisations and employer associations.

Of course, while the operation of the IRA 2016 is limited to non-national system employees (this means its effect is limited to State Government and State Authority employees and Local Government employees), some of the amendments apply to all employees. The provisions for long service leave, emergency service leave, and jury service apply to national system employees as well. No doubt, national system employees (especially those in retail, hospitality and health care) will be glad for the Easter Sunday public holiday declaration.

The new long service leave entitlements, provide for the same calculation of the long service leave as is provided currently under the Industrial Relations Act 1999.

One major reform is that State and Local Government employees will have access to anti-bullying protections, and can apply to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) for orders to prevent bullying. In a similar fashion to the Fair Work Act provisions, the QIRC will only have jurisdiction to make orders if it is satisfied that there is a risk of ongoing bullying at work.

The domestic and family violence leave, adopts the definition of “domestic and family violence” from the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012. That is, domestic and family violence is “behaviour by a person towards another person with whom that first person is in a relevant relationship”. A “relevant relationship” includes, intimate personal relationships, family relationships or informal care relationships.

If a relevant relationship exists, then the provisions cover behaviour that is “physically or sexually abusive, emotionally or psychologically abusive, economically abusive or which threatens, coerces or controls or dominates the second person causing the second person to fear for their safety or well-being”.

A person will be entitled to take domestic and family violence leave for the following circumstances –

  • if they are recovering from an injury caused by domestic violence
  • if they are attending appointments relating to the violence such as counselling, legal advice, medical treatment or appointments with the police
  • if they are preparing for court appearances or attending court for a proceeding relating to violence
  • if they are finding housing that is necessary as a result of the violence; and
  • if they are organising necessary childcare and education in the course of the violence.

Full time employees are entitled to 10 days paid DFV Leave. Long-term casual employees are entitled to 10 days unpaid domestic family violence leave, while
short-term casual employees are entitled to 2 days unpaid domestic or family violence leave. It will be an offence for an employer not to re-engage a long-term casual employee or a short-term casual employee only because the employee has taken domestic and family violence leave.

The greatest impact of IRA 2016 will fall on employers within the various State or Local government departments and authorities. There will be a raft of issues that will arise for managing employees and their claims. Along with potential anti-bullying applications, adverse action claims and additional leave for domestic and family violence leave, all employees will be able to seek flexible working arrangements. This will require managers to review their bullying policy and code of conduct, to manage bullying allegations carefully, to adopt domestic and family violence policies that are consistent with the IRA 2016 and finally, to review their operational requirements, so that, when an employee makes an application for flexible work arrangements, the decision whether to grant the request will be based on sound operational reasons.

If you need help managing or reviewing any of these things, please contact us.