Unions and registered organisations changes

Last updated 1 July 2024 

There have been changes to right of entry for unions and workplace delegates rights.

Right of entry permits

This change started on 15 December 2023.

The requirement for officials assisting a state or territory work health and safety representative to hold an entry permit under the Fair Work Act has been removed.

We’ve updated our Right of entry page to reflect the changes.

Right of entry exemption certificates and permit conditions

These changes started on 1 July 2024.

There are new rules for right of entry permits and exemption certificates.

A right of entry exemption certificate allows a permit holder to forgo giving an employer the required notice for a permitted visit if they’re investigating a suspected breach of the Fair Work Act or a related instrument. These certificates are issued by the Fair Work Commission (the Commission).

Unions can apply for an exemption certificate from the Commission in certain circumstances to waive the 24 hours’ notice requirement for entry. This will now be permitted where the Commission:

  • is satisfied that the suspected contravention is an underpayment of a union member
  • reasonably believes giving advance notice of the entry would prevent an effective investigation into that contravention.

The Commission will also have the power to:

  • put conditions on right of entry permits and exemption certificates to ensure they’re used appropriately within the law
  • protect permit holders from improper conduct by others.

We’ve updated our Right of entry page to reflect the changes. 

Workplace delegates

These changes started on 15 December 2023.

New rights and protections have been introduced for workplace delegates.

A workplace delegate is an employee:

  • appointed or elected under the rules of an employee organisation
  • who represent members of the organisation in the workplace.

The changes mean that delegates are entitled to:

  • represent the industrial interests of members and potential members of the employee organisation (including in disputes with their employer)
  • reasonable communication with members and potential members about their industrial interests
  • reasonable access to the workplace and its facilities to represent those industrial interests.

Delegates employed by non-small businesses are also entitled to have reasonable access to paid time during normal working hours for workplace delegate training.

Find out more from our:

Access our updated information:

Awards, enterprise agreements and workplace determinations

From 1 July 2024, the following must have a term providing for the exercise of rights of workplace delegates:

  • awards
  • new enterprise agreements voted on after that date
  • new workplace determinations.

Access our updated information on delegates' rights in awards and agreements from our Workplace delegates page.

Workplace delegates of regulated workers

These changes start on 26 August 2024.

Changes taking effect from 26 August 2024 will extend the above new rights to cover workplace delegates who represent the interests of union members who are also regulated workers.

From this date, a workplace delegate will include a person appointed or elected under the rules of an employee organisation to represent members of the organisation who perform work:

  • for a particular regulated business, or
  • that has been arranged or facilitated by a particular regulated business.

Workplace delegates will now be entitled to represent the industrial interests of current or prospective union members that are regulated workers. This includes in disputes with regulated businesses.

Workplace delegates will also be entitled to reasonable:

  • communication with regulated workers that are members and potential members
  • access to the workplace facilities provided by a regulated business for the purpose of representing those workers’ industrial interests.

Regulated businesses will have to comply with any delegates’ rights terms in a minimum standards order.

Regulated businesses will be barred from taking certain actions against a workplace delegate who is a regulated worker and:

  • engaged under a services contract, or
  • arranged for or facilitated entry into a services contract under which the workplace delegate performs work.

A regulated business will be barred from:

  • unreasonably refusing to deal with the workplace delegate
  • knowingly or recklessly making a false or misleading representation to the workplace delegate, or
  • unreasonably hindering, obstructing or preventing the workplace delegate exercising their rights.

The change also means that regulated workers who are workplace delegates for their union will be protected from adverse action taken because they have a delegate right. This is because their delegate right is now a workplace right and is protected from adverse action.

Example: Workplace delegates

Kareem is a regulated worker. He performs work for a digital labour platform operator Odd Jobs & End Jobs.

Kareem is also a member of a union that intends to start bargaining for a collective agreement.

Kareem is elected to be a workplace delegate for other members of the same union. As a delegate, Kareem wants to run a short presentation at the Odd Jobs & End Jobs office on what members can expect once bargaining starts for the collective agreement. He also wants their input on the issues that are most important to members.

Kareem invites union members to attend the presentation during their scheduled lunch break. He follows the standard process to book a room for 30 minutes at the Odd Jobs & End Jobs office. When arriving for the meeting, Kareem finds that Odd Jobs & End Jobs has locked the room. These rooms are normally opened before scheduled meetings.

Kareem is informed that the room was locked because Odd Jobs & End Jobs didn’t want union members talking about bargaining.

The actions by Odd Jobs & End Jobs are a breach of the general protections for workplace delegates and are unlawful. This is because Odd Jobs & End Jobs has:

  • unreasonably prevented Kareem from access to its facilities to represent the industrial interests of members
  • unreasonably interfered with Kareem’s right to reasonable communication with union members and other workers eligible to be members in relation to their industrial interests.

Registered organisations

These changes started on 27 February 2024.

New laws have repealed changes made to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act in December 2020 about demergers of amalgamated registered organisations such as unions.

The changes restore the requirement for applications for demerging joined (amalgamated) registered organisations to be made within 2 to 5 years after the amalgamation.

There have also been technical changes to the demerger processes for amalgamated registered organisations.

The Commission is the registered organisations regulator.

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