The first anniversary of the new Fair Work laws was on 1 July 2010.  This date also saw the first pay period that the $26 per week national wage increase was introduced, along with higher award penalty rates, allowances, loadings and casual wages in some industries and States. Whilst these recent changes in wage and labour costs in industrial relations awards are more complex, they will be a good thing in the long term as approximately 4000 state and federal awards have been streamlined into 122 modern awards. It is important that you as an employer are aware of your obligations and are using the appropriate new modern award.

Although there have been many changes with the potential to affect a lot of businesses, some industries have not been drastically affected. However, in other business areas, employers have become subject to additional costs and have had to make significant changes. For instance, some shopkeepers have become subject to higher Sunday penalty rates and higher casual wages.

There are 10 National Employment Standards (NES) which all business owners, whether previously covered by a federal award or a NSW state award, need to be aware of and be complying with.

• Maximum weekly hours of work – 38 hours per week, plus reasonable additional hours.

• Requests for flexible working arrangements – allows parents or carers of a child under school age or of a child under 18 with a disability, to request a change in working arrangements to assist with the child’s care.

• Parental leave and related entitlements – up to 12 months unpaid leave for every employee, plus a right to request an additional 12 months unpaid leave, plus other forms of maternity, paternity and adoption related leave.

• Annual leave – 4 weeks paid leave per year, plus an additional week for certain shift workers.

• Personal/carer’s leave and compassionate leave – 10 days paid personal/carer’s leave, two days unpaid carer’s leave as required, and two days compassionate leave (unpaid for casuals) as required.

• Community service leave – unpaid leave for voluntary emergency activities and leave for jury service, with an entitlement to be paid for up to 10 days for jury service.

• Long service leave – a transitional entitlement for certain employees who had certain LSL entitlements before 1/1/10 pending the development of a uniform national long service leave standard.

• Public holidays – a paid day off on a public holiday, except where reasonably requested to work.

• Notice of termination and redundancy pay – up to 4 weeks notice of termination (5 weeks if the employee is over 45 and has at least 2 years of continuous service) and up to 16 weeks redundancy pay, both based on length of service.

• Provision of a Fair Work Information Statement – employers must provide this statement to all new employees.

With the new award rules legally in place it is vital to ensure your business is not in breach of its legal obligations. Due to the complexity of the transition to the modern IR awards, even the most well intentioned employers can be charged up to $33,000 for each employee per pay period for an inadvertent breach. Workplace inspectors will be educating and enforcing the compliance of many small businesses.

Here at The Quinn Group we are able to help small business owners in what would otherwise be a daunting and potentially costly change to their IR awards. Our experienced team of lawyers are able to explain this complex transition and ensure your business is compliant. For advice or assistance please submit an online enquiry or call us on 1300 QUINNS (1300 784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment.