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Lawyers for local government

LG Alert – Expansion of the South Australian Employment Tribunal (May 17th, 2017)

In late 2016 the SA Parliament passed the Statutes Amendment (South Australian Employment Tribunal) Act 2016 (“the Act”). In the Government Gazette yesterday, the Act was proclaimed to (largely) come into operation on 1 July 2017.

The Act makes the South Australian Employment Tribunal (“SAET”) a “one-stop-shop” for employment dispute resolution, with the jurisdiction of a number of other bodies being rolled into it, including:

  • Industrial Relations Court and Commission

SAET will exercise the jurisdictions of the Industrial Relations Court and Industrial Relations Commission.

  • Dust Diseases list of the District Court

SAET will have jurisdiction to hear dust disease matters.

  • Criminal jurisdiction of Magistrates Court in respect of ‘industrial offences’

Members of SAET who are magistrates will hear criminal proceedings for summary or minor indictable offences in the South Australian Employment Court.

  • Common law employment contract disputes heard in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts

SAET will have a broad common law jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes arising under contracts of employment, decide monetary claims, and hear common law damages claims for workplace injuries.

  • Teachers Appeal Board and Classification Review (Panels)

SAET will be able to determine appeals under the Education Act 1972 regarding a decision made in the public school system about the employment or the disciplining of a teacher, or of people appointed under the Technical and Further Education Act 1975. SAET will also review decisions of the Director-General regarding applications by teachers for reclassification.

  • Equal Opportunity Tribunal

SAET will hear and determine unresolved discrimination complaints referred from the Equal Opportunity Commissioner. This includes discrimination that occurs in an employment context.

  • Police Review Tribunal (termination and transfer matters only)

SAET will review certain decisions relating to the termination of appointment or transfer of a member of SA Police and selections for appointment to promotional positions. Jurisdiction covering promotion reviews will continue to be dealt with by the Police Review Tribunal.

  • Public Sector Grievance Review Commission

The jurisdiction of the Public Sector Grievance Review Commission will be conferred onto SAET, allowing SAET to review certain employment decisions for public sector employees.

The Act also establishes the Tribunal in Court Session, which will be referred to as the South Australian Employment Court (“the Court”).

This enables SAET, as one body, to operate with two parts:

    • the Tribunal – to exercise administrative powers (e.g. arbitral jurisdictions), and
    • the Court – to exercise judicial powers.

The President of SAET is also a judge of the District Court and holds the same rank, title, status and precedence as a judge of the Supreme Court.

SAET also has multiple deputy presidents who are either a judge of the District Court or a magistrate.

These presidential members are the only members of SAET that may hear matters in the South Australian Employment Court.

A raft of regulations has also been proclaimed, to manage both the transition, and the expanded jurisdiction, including specific functions, processes and powers, of the SAET under the Act. The regulations relevant to local government include:

  • Fair Work (General) Variation Regulations 2017
  • Fair Work (Representation) Variation Regulations 2017
  • Long Service Leave Variation Regulations 2017
  • Return to Work (Transitional Arrangements)(Dissolution of Workers Compensation Tribunal) Variation Regulations 2017
  • South Australian Employment Tribunal Variation Regulations 2017
  • Summary Procedure (Industrial Offences) Revocation Regulations 2017
  • Work Health and Safety Variation Regulations 2017

The changes will have a significant impact for Councils in regard to unfair dismissal claims and industrial disputes, which will now be handled by the SAET, as well as approval of Enterprise Agreements. KelledyJones will continue to monitor the impact of the changes on local government, and update Councils.

If you have any specific questions about the employment or industrial relations area, please contact Chris Morey on 8113 7111 or cmorey@kelledyjones.com.au.