A New Area of Workplace Regulation
Historically federal and state governments have sought to regulate industrial interaction of ‘groups’ (employers and their organisations and employees and their organisations – unions). Issues were dealt with at the macro level (across industries and sectors of the economy); the emphasis being on resolution, or avoidance, of ‘disputes’– given the title of ‘Industrial Relations’.
During the 1990s the emphasis moved down to the enterprise level, however the focus was still on collective interactions, primarily dealing with bargaining processes.
In 2006 the Howard Government’s Work Choices legislative package created a significant, (in Australian terms), departure from the traditional ‘Industrial’ (third party resolution approach) to that of ‘Workplace Relations’, with the relationship between an employer and the individual worker as its core. Instead of ‘disputes’ and ‘bargaining’, the new legislative package had front and centre – rights & obligations.
The 2009 Fair Work Act, whilst retaining many of the least controversial aspects of its predecessor, seeks to go beyond the relationship between employers and their employees; with an emerging trend to address, in the broader context, the balance of work and lifestyle. Legislation now deals, or is intended to deal, with both employment and inter-personal relationships.
The latest manifestation of this trend is the Anti-bullying measures that came into being on the 1st of January, as part of the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013.