As required by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), the Fair Work Commission has commenced its first comprehensive four yearly review of modern awards this week releasing details of the preliminary stages of the review. The review presents an opportunity for employers to rectify concerns and issues they may have with the modern awards applicable to their business.
A preliminary hearing before Justice Iain Ross, President of the Fair Work Commission, will be held in the first week of February to determine the scope of the review and identify any preliminary issues. Following this initial stage, all 122 modern awards will then be reviewed in four groups of approximately 30 awards.
Nearly 300 applications to vary modern awards were made during the one-off, two year review of modern awards in 2012, and it is expected an even greater number of applications will be made in relation to the four year review given its broader scope.
Unlike the 'interim' review conducted in 2012, the current review is not limited to an assessment of whether modern awards contain anomalies, technical problems or are not achieving their intended objectives as set out in the Fair Work Act. In the current review, the Fair Work Commission is able to make changes to all aspects of modern awards, including minimum rates of pay.
Employers will not have another opportunity to participate in a comprehensive modern award review until 2018. It is therefore important for employers to carefully review the modern awards applicable to their business and identify any areas of concern.