Programme 2.2 Workplace assistance

The objective of this programme is to ensure the successful operation of the workplace relations system, particularly through initiatives designed to demonstrate the benefit of cooperative workplace relations, and to assist employers and employees to understand their rights and obligations under the system.

Protected action ballots scheme

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, a ballot of eligible workers is required before protected industrial action can be taken to pursue claims during bargaining for an enterprise agreement, except when the action is in response to industrial action by the other party. During 2013–14 the government met the full cost of 578 ballots, paying $0.863 million under the scheme.

Fair Work Principles and the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines

The department implemented the government’s decision, announced in March 2014, to revoke the Fair Work Principles and the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines by 30 June 2014. The principles and guidelines were procurement policies of the Commonwealth connected to the government’s financial management framework and their revocation is expected to reduce compliance costs for firms tendering for and providing goods and services to the government.

National Workplace Education Programme

In 2013–14 the department implemented the former government’s decision to fund the National Workplace Education Programme. The programme provided a one-off grant of $10 million to the Union Education Foundation in 2010 to deliver national workplace education programmes to employee representatives over a five-year period to 30 June 2015.

Productivity Education and Training Fund

In 2013–14 the department implemented the former government’s decision to fund the Productivity Education and Training Fund. The fund provided funding to peak employer and employee organisations to develop and deliver education programmes to enhance workplace productivity. The programmes are being delivered by the Union Education Foundation, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group.

The programmes started in 2012–13 and will run for between five and 10 years.

Ethical Clothing Australia Education and Compliance Programme

The department administered the Ethical Clothing Australia Education and Compliance Programme, which included the provision of taxpayer funding to Ethical Clothing Australia, a joint business–union body, to administer the Homeworkers Code of Practice. The code is a voluntary accreditation scheme relating to outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry.

The department implemented the government’s decision to cease funding Ethical Clothing Australia from 30 June 2014.

Gender equality reporting

The department has policy responsibility for the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, which sets out the requirements for certain employers to report annually on six gender equality indicators.

Throughout 2013–14 the department undertook consultations to examine the reporting requirements outlined in the Workplace Gender Equality (Matters in relation to Gender Equality Indicators) Instrument 2013 (No. 1). This review was part of the government’s commitment to ensuring that reporting delivers real benefits in the workplace commensurate with the effort required from employers. In addition, consistent with the requirements under the Act, the government introduced a new minimum standard, set out in the Workplace Gender Equality (Minimum Standards) Instrument 2014, to better support gender equality and diversity in the workplace. In March 2014, the government announced further public consultations on the reporting requirements.

The department also provided policy advice on increasing the workforce participation of women, parents and carers.

Engagement with international organisations

During the year, the department’s international engagement included representing Australia on employment and workplace relations issues in various international multilateral organisations, such as the International Labour Organization (see Part 4), the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The department is assisted by a Minister-Counsellor who is part of Australia’s permanent delegation to the OECD based in Paris and Australia’s Special Labour Adviser to the International Labour Organization.