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New workplace rights for delegates explained

July 5, 2024

Union delegates within Australia have won improved rights and protections to support the crucial role they undertake in representing the interests of workers. These new, specific rights and protections for union delegates are now contained in the Fair Work Act.

A workplace delegate is an employee who is appointed or elected under a  union’s rules, and who represents union members in the workplace.  The AWU’s Rules say that delegates will either be elected by members at a meeting called for that purpose, or they can be appointed by the Branch Secretary, Branch Assistant Secretary or an Organiser.

The delegates rights’ changes will entitle delegates to:

represent the industrial interests of members and potential members of a union (including in disputes with their employer);

undertake reasonable communication with members and potential members about their industrial interests, during working hours or work breaks, or before the start or after the end of work and

reasonable access to the workplace and its facilities to perform their duties as delegates.

Delegates employed by non-small businesses (businesses with more than 15 employees) are also entitled to have reasonable access to paid time during normal working hours for workplace delegate training.

Subject to certain conditions, reasonable access to paid time for workplace delegate training includes five days in the first year of being a delegate, and one day for each year after that. The AWU offers new and refresher delegate training in each state and territory. Please contact your Organiser for information about how to access training in your state. 

The amendments also include specific protections for workplace delegates when carrying out their role at a workplace, including preventing an employer from unreasonably refusing to deal with them, misleading them, or hindering and obstructing the exercise of their rights as delegates.

In addition, there are also obligations placed on delegates by the changes, such as:

Giving their employer written notice of their appointment or election as a workplace delegate;

Providing to their employer, unless otherwise agreed, at least 5 weeks’ notice of and the details of any proposed delegate training and

Giving their employer written notice within 14 days where they stop being a workplace delegate.

From 1 July 2024, every award will contain a delegates’ rights clause defining these rights. Enterprise Agreements and workplace determinations made after 1 July 2024 will also need to contain a delegates’ rights clause.

Click here to download the full fact sheet!

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