Individual flexibility agreement
An IFA is part of the Fair Work Act. Specifically, it is an agreement made between a single employer and an individual employee. This agreement alters some of the terms of an award or agreement and must leave the single employee “Better Off Overall” if signed.
The power to make an IFA comes from the flexibility clause in the modern award. The Fair Work Act requires every Modern Award and Enterprise Agreement to include a flexibility clause. In theory this clause enables an employer and employee to agree on an IFA which varies the effect of the Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement so that it can “meet the genuine needs of the employer and that individual employee” in an individual context.
To provide some level of protection, and differentiate them from the AWAs of the previous legislation, the IFA must satisfy the “Better Off Overall Test” and is limited in what conditions of employment it can alter.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 employers are prohibited from using undue influence or pressure, coercion, threats, discrimination or taking adverse action against an employee to make them sign. Nor can employers insist upon an employee agreeing to an IFA as a condition of employment or lose out on opportunities such as overtime or shifts with increased penalty rates attached.
Spotless and IFAs
There has only been one case to date of any push-back on IFAs. In 2011, the Spotless Group, became the focus of a high-profile industrial relations test case in Australia after claims of bullying and harassment surrounding Spotless’ use of IFAs, were raised by members of United Voice. United Voice is the union that represents contract cleaners employed by Spotless at shopping centres, CBD buildings and other privately and publicly owned buildings.
The case will be heard by the Federal Court of Australia, where United Voice will argue that Spotless is in breach of the Fair Work Act as it leaves cleaners worse off than they would be without the IFAs.
- Spotless Group faces Federal Court action by United Voice union, The Australian, March 30, 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011
- Cleaners take up legal fight, The Age, March 30, 2011. retrieved 18 May 2011
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