Programme 2.2 - Workplace assistance

The objective of this programme is to ensure the successful operation of the workplace relations system through initiatives designed to encourage employers and employees to adopt productive and modern workplace relations.

Protected action ballots scheme

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, a ballot of eligible employees 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 2014–15 the government met the full cost of 1037 ballots, paying $1.39 million under the scheme.

National Workplace Education Programme

In 2014–15 the department continued 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. The programme ended on 30 June 2015.

Productivity Education and Training Fund

During 2014–15 the department continued to implement the Productivity Education and Training Fund. The fund supports peak employer and employee organisations in developing and delivering 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.

Gender equality reporting

In 2014, the government sought to identify ways to streamline the gender equality reporting framework while continuing to meet the policy objectives of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. The department worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and consulted widely with stakeholders through roundtable meetings, a formal submission process and an electronic survey.

From 1 April 2015, organisations are no longer required to report data on issues such as the remuneration of CEOs or equivalent and contract workers. Reporting on parental leave continues but is more targeted to focus on the retention and turnover of employees after a period of parental leave. This replaces the requirement to report on the number of requests and approvals for extensions to parental leave. Reporting against certain gender equality indicators—including the gender composition of the workforce and governing bodies, flexible working arrangements and equal remuneration—remains unchanged.

In February 2015, the government announced changes that will provide the most value for employers for the effort of reporting. The changes will reduce the cost of compliance with the framework by more than one-third for each reporting organisation, while maintaining the integrity of the gender data.

To further improve gender reporting arrangements, in May 2015 Senator Michaelia Cash, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, established a working group of stakeholders, supported by the department. The working group is examining potential improvements to the non-manager occupational categories used in gender reporting. The department engaged a research consultant to provide analysis and advice to the working group on non-manager categories, and is liaising with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. The working group will report back to government in the second half of 2015.