Kevin Rudd ‘restores the safety net’ in new system

Industrial relations laws change working hours

Working parents will have the right to request more flexibility from their bosses and a 38-hour week will be the national standard in new IR measures which Kevin Rudd says restores the workplace "safety net".

The 10 national employment standards cover leave entitlements including parental leave, annual leave, personal carer and compassionate leave, community service leave, long service leave and public holidays.

Notice of termination and redundancy pay are included and employees also will have the right to a fair work information sheet from their employer. The changes will replace the Howard government’s WorkChoices system.

But the Prime Minister, who has copped flak since taking office for the punishing schedule expected of public servants, has said every workplace will have its own needs and the standards are a "safety net", not a straitjacket.

"These new national employment standards are a real safety net for working Australians which cannot be stripped away. (They’re) fairer for workers, simpler for employers,” Mr Rudd has said.

Mr Rudd said the 38-hour week was one of the national standards, but acknowledged there would be different circumstances in individual workplaces. "Individuals are constantly going to make their own choices, we understand that," he said.

"But our important obligation to the nation is to make sure that you’ve got basic standards … that’s what this is all about."

For all of us

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said the new legislation would take effect on New Year’s Day, 2010. She has said every worker would be covered "whether you work part-time in a restaurant or whether you work as a surgeon in a hospital".

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission would use the standards as a base when creating "modern, simple" awards, which would protect penalty rates.

Gazetted public holidays would be guaranteed for workers, and employers could only request them to work on such days if it was reasonable to do so. "Obviously there are some workers in our community who we all accept need to work through public holiday periods," Ms Gillard has said.

On flexible working arrangements for parents of young children, she has said in some businesses it would not possible to work from home or part-time.

"We understand Australian workplaces come in all shapes and sizes. But what we want to achieve through this new flexible set of working conditions for parents is that they are able to go to their employer and canvass the prospect of additional unpaid leave."
The new standards are contained in a 50-page document. That compared with the previous Coalition Government’s 150-page explanation in its Work Choices legislation.


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