Sign Here or Else!

Once again the fine print around agreement-making has caused angst for an employer and employees because of a technicality in the approval process. And the Commissioner who had to deliver the bad news, expressed regret that she couldn’t waive the minor irregularity and approve the deal.

The Fair Work Act, coupled with its regulations, requires an agreements to have affixed to it the name, address, job classification and signature of an employee covered by the agreement when the application is made. But in this case, the signature was missing at the time the application was made. So it was not “a signed copy” as required by the Act.

The language of the both the legislation and its regulations about this issue is mandatory. This means that the FWC members cannot use their powers to waive a petty irregularity such as this. It would, for example, have made no difference to the eventual outcome if the commissioner had been able to ask that this simple requirement be met. Other approval documentation, such as the statutory declaration in support of an application, can be re-submitted in cases where an error or omission has been made.

The net effect of this minor irregularity was substantial. The FWC had no choice but to dismiss the entire application. So while the agreement itself was completely salvageable, the employer and employees had to start the bargaining ‘process’ over again, have at least 22 days elapse before re-submitting the application and joining the very long agreement approval queue at the FWC.

Chubb Fire Safety, Alice Springs, Electrical Technicians Agreement [2018] FWC 4647 (10 August 2018)