National Employment Standards - What Do They Mean for Your Business?

Last Updated Jun 23, 2008 1:14 AM EDT

The Federal Government recently released its 10 National Employment Standards ("NES") --- a new "simpler" statutory safety net aimed at "protecting fair minimum wages and conditions for all working Australians". Although the standards will apply from 1 January, 2010, it is important for employers to just how they might affect their obligations to employees.

The new safety net is made up of 10 standards covering:

  1. Maximum weekly hours of work
  2. Requests for flexible working arrangements
  3. Parental leave and related entitlements
  4. Annual leave
  5. Personal/carer's leave and compassionate leave
  6. Community service leave
  7. Long service leave
  8. Public holidays
  9. Notice of termination and redundancy pay
  10. Fair Work Information Statement
The 10 NES will enshrine a number of additional entitlements for employees that did not previously form part of the industrial safety net under WorkChoices.

FOr example, employees (with a qualifying period of at least 12 months) will have the right to request a change in their working arrangements to assist them in caring for a child under their responsibility. Although employers will have the opportunity to refuse the request on "reasonable business grounds", in most cases employers will need to accommodate their employees' family responsibilities when requested to do so. This could potentially affect the current 9-to-5 full-time working arrangements that most businesses operate under.

Employees will also have the right to be absent from work for jury service, voluntary emergency management services or other prescribed activities. Employers will be required to pay full-time employees up to 10 days' pay for attending jury service. Employees will also have the right to be absent from work on public holidays, unless the employer's request for them to work is reasonable.

Employers will be required to honour long service leave provisions reflected in awards and other industrial instruments. There will also be a legislated minimum scale of redundancy payments which an employer must pay in the event that the employee's employment is terminated because the employer no longer requires the job to be done or because the employer is insolvent.

While the penalties for failing to abide by these standards are still unclear, it is clear that businesses will need to start factoring the NES into future planning.

  • Robert Gerrish

    Robert Gerrish is a coach, author and professional speaker and the founder of Flying Solo (www.flyingsolo.com.au), the Australian online community for solo business owners.