Queensland Industrial Relations Power Referred to The Commonwealth

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Since March 2006 (with the implementation of the Work Choices amendments), the Commonwealth has regulated the employment relationships of trading or financial corporations and their employees.  The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) now regulates these relationships.  However, with the exception of employees in Victoria and the ACT, employees of entities that are not trading or financial corporations have remained with the State jurisdiction.

Referral by Qld to the Commonwealth

The Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) and Other Provisions Act 2009 was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 19 November 2009.

The Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) and Other Provisions Act 2009 refers Queensland’s industrial relations power for all private sector employers and employees to the Commonwealth.  This means that all Queensland private sector employers and employees will now fall under the operation of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), the National Employment Standards and the Modern Awards.  The only exception will be those employees in the state Public Service and local government which will remain covered by the State workplace relations system.  The change takes effect on 1 January 2010.

As the Bill has been passed, all private sector employers and employees (including employees of partnerships and Churches) will fall within the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).  This means that they will no longer be covered by the State workplace relations system and the National Employment Standards and Modern Awards will apply.

Similar steps are being taken by other States.

The Commonwealth Parliament is expected to make transitional arrangements for employers and employees moving from the Queensland workplace relations system to the Commonwealth system.  As a result, the Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009 (Cth) will probably be amended to allow for such arrangements.

The Queensland Attorney General, when presenting the legislation to the Queensland Parliament noted that the Bill places limits on the Commonwealth from making amendments to the national system laws which impact on the Queensland’s referred jurisdiction without prior agreement from the Queensland government.

All private sector employers should consider how the changes will affect their operations, and take further advice if necessary, preferably in advance of 1 January 2010 when the changes take effect.

We continue to watch with interest regarding how these changes will impact on employers and employees not previously included in the Commonwealth Statutory Framework.

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