Employers are under-prepared for the introduction of new requirements under the Fair Work Act which commences tomorrw (1 July), a survey has found.
The survey, conducted by DLA Phillips Fox, found that nearly one in five of the 162 respondents rated their understanding of, and readiness for, the "good faith bargaining" provisions as below average or poor. In addition, less that one in five respondents said their company had taken steps to protect sensitive information that may be requested during good faith bargaining.
A breach of the good faith bargaining provisions - which require parties to bargain in good faith when negotiating enterprise agreements - could see an employer facing compulsory arbitration on employment wages and conditions.
In addition, the survey revealed high levels of concern amongst employers about responding to union requests for information. 69 per cent of respondents said they are concerned, or very concerned, about responding to a request by a union for the organisation's business plans, and 83 per cent are concerned or very concerned about how unions might use this type of information.
Many employers were also unaware of some key changes which give new powers to employees to protect their rights. For example, 63 per cent of respondents were unaware that employees may now be able to seek a pre-emptive injunction preventing an employer from taking a particular course of action, potentially halting a performance management process or preventing pending termination of employment.
This will be of particular concern for employers, as there is a reverse onus of proof in proceedings relating to a breach of the Fair Work protections, the employer being required to effectively disprove the allegation.
The DLA Phillips Fox survey targeted human resources and employee relations professionals, in-house legal counsel and senior management across a broad cross-section of industries.