The Australian Government has announced changes to the Fair Work Regulations that temporarily changes the access period for enterprise agreement variations. The changes reduce the period for proposed variations to enterprise agreements from seven days to one.

The Fair Work Amendment (Variation of Enterprise Agreements) Regulations 2020 allows businesses to respond to COVID-19 related requirements and working arrangements quickly. It means that employees will now have access to a copy of the proposed change to their enterprise agreement, and notified of the details of a vote, for one day rather than seven.

Any proposed changes to enterprise agreements still need to satisfy the Fair Work Commission’s ‘genuine agreement’ test and employees can vote for or against the proposed change.

This is a temporary measure in response to COVID-19. It will be in place for six months initially.

Enterprise agreements are agreements made between employers and employees (unless the enterprise agreement is a greenfields agreement) about terms and conditions of employment for the employees involved. The Fair Work Commission deals with disputes arising under the terms of agreements. It also assesses and approves enterprise agreements.

Each employee’s right to vote for, or against, a variation to their enterprise agreement is protected under Australia’s workplace laws.  Employees who believe that they have been threatened to vote a certain way, or because they vote a certain way, in a variation process should contact the ABCC, the FWO or their union for assistance.