By David Bates

Where were you on New Year’s Eve on 31 December 2009? As the clock ticked towards midnight, were you sipping champagne with friends? Perhaps you were at home with family eagerly anticipating the midnight fireworks on TV. Maybe you were already in bed, having been exhausted by another whole year of running your business?

Well, in the fantasyland of the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission, you weren’t doing any of the above. Instead, you were at work busily ensuring your business was fully-compliant with the (then) 122 brand new Modern Awards.

As the clocks struck midnight and fireworks burst across the skies, you were ensuring every aspect of your business had become fully-compliant with Australia’s inflexible, eye-wateringly complex, and innovation-destroying Modern Awards. 

Oh come on now, don’t pretend you didn’t know all about your new legal obligations under both the Awards and the ten new National Employment Standards (NES) that took effect on that momentous midnight (or one year later in some states, but don’t let that ruin a good yarn)!

Surely as day follows night you began issuing the compulsory new Fair Work Information Statement to every new employee you engaged from that day forward?

And of course you ensured soft or hard copies of all applicable Modern Awards were now available in your workplace?

You would also have made sure every Award-covered employee had been assigned to their appropriate, new Award-classification too, right?

And you would have adjusted the frequency of your wage payments to ensure they were compliant with the new Award?

And you issued Award-covered part-time employees with the compulsory new written agreements confirming their days of work, start and finishing times and breaks times that most Awards now require.

And you stopped unlawfully cashing-out annual leave for Award-covered employees whose Awards no longer expressly allowed it.

And you issued new contracts that correctly confirmed any above-Award wages or salaries were fully-inclusive of all Award-based monetary entitlements so that these wouldn’t then become possibly payable on top of the over-Award wages and salaries. 

And you completely altered your rosters so that they aligned with the brand new ‘span of ordinary hours’ imposed by most Modern Awards.

And you began complying with the new ‘consultation provisions’ imposed by all Modern Awards.

And you also began correctly paying all the new loadings, penalties, and allowances imposed by the newly-applicable Modern Awards?

And you ensured there was no possibility you were unintentially breaching the ‘maximum ordinary 38 hour working week’ too, right?

No? You didn’t? How strange! Because the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission will have no sympathy for you at all when you eventually – and inevitably – find yourself facing a formal complaint or are subjected to a ‘random audit’. 

According to these authorities – and the ironically named ‘Fair Work Act 2009’ – you have been legally-bound by the above requirements (and many, many more) for more than six years now, and they genuinely can’t understand how or why you still aren’t fully-compliant.