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As of 1 January 2014, it is important that employers are aware of two major changes that have taken place in relation to workplace bullying laws and an increase in apprentice rates.

Firstly, the federal Fair Work Commission has a new jurisdiction, that being 'anti-bullying' in the workplace.  The new workplace bullying laws under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) allow a worker who is bullied at work to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order for the bullying to stop.  These changes apply to a constitutionally covered business, including direct employees, contractors, subcontractors, outworkers, apprentices, trainees, work experience students and volunteers.

Unrestricted to the workplace itself, workers can be subjected to workplace bullying during lunch or other breaks, at work trips, functions or at any work events, including client events, or while working from home.  Workplace bullying also can occur on social media at any time.

In order for employers to meet the challenges of these new laws, it is advised to properly prepare and implement anti-bullying strategies, including a prevention of workplace bullying policy and a complaints/grievance handling policy.

Secondly, there has been an increase in apprentice rates in particular under the modern awards.  The new rates of pay will be phased in over a two year period, taking effect from the first pay period after 1 January 2014.  This predominately applies to 1st year, 2nd year and adult apprentices that are not already incorporated in their modern award.  To avoid any potential underpayments to staff, employers should also be aware of the following changes which include:

  • adding competency based wage progressions to some awards;
  • adding school-based apprentice provisions to some awards;
  • adding wage protections for adult apprentices who have worked for their employer before starting an apprenticeship; and
  • adjustments to award conditions about travel costs, training time, training fees and attendance at training.

Employers found to be in breach of Award or legislative provisions may be subject to an audit of wage records and potential prosecution for underpayments. An employer found in breach of an Award or federal workplace relations legislation may face a penalty of up to $33,000 per breach.

If you require any further information on the new changes or any other HR related matter please speak with your usual Hanrick Curran Adviser or contact Kelly Langdon or Emily Moriarty on 07 3218 3900.