The presence of the trade union remains strong in Australia, but what happens if they knock on your door?
It’s not surprising that you may be a little concerned when it comes to union rights. It’s important to take union entry rights seriously, and to understand what you can and can’t do as a business when it comes to opening up your doors to the trade union.
When can a trade union official enter my workplace?
Trade union officials do not have an automatic right to enter your workplace. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, they can only enter your workplace with a valid and current entry permit. A union official can enter your workplace during working hours only to:
- investigate suspected breaches of the Fair Work Act, Awards or Enterprise Agreements;
- hold discussions during meal times or other breaks with employees on site who they are entitled to represent; or
- perform inspections under a State or Territory WHS law.
Trade union officials must provide at least 24 hours written notice of entry, and all entry notices are required by law to specify:
- the work site to be entered;
- the day of entry;
- the trade union the permit holder is affiliated with; and
- the section of the Fair Work Act 2009 that allows the entry into your workplace.
If a union official does not meet these requirements, you have the right to refuse entry!
So what can a trade union official do?
Once on your work site, a permit holder has the right to:
- inspect any work, process or object relevant to the suspected contravention;
- interview any person who agrees to be interviewed about the suspected contravention and who has the right to be represented by that specific union;
- inspect and make copies of any records that are relevant;
- serve a notice to require you to produce certain records (these may include contracts of employment, payslips, meeting notes, etc);
- request a suitable room to conduct these discussions;
- not be hindered or obstructed during this process.
What happens if I refuse entry?
Significant penalties apply if you hinder or obstruct union right of entry or delay entry.
However, remember that you do have the right to refuse entry in certain situations. If a union official doesn’t have the right to enter your workplace, make it clear that they don’t have your consent to enter and ask them to leave.
For more information on union entry, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.