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Opinion: End date for ‘zombie’ agreements

The time for modernising sclerotic aspects of enterprise bargaining is overdue

While a ‘zombie agreement’ might sound like a plot device in a horror movie, it is actually a commonly-used term that describes some forms of workplace agreements that have been preserved in law.

These include enterprise agreements made during what was known as the Fair Work Act ‘bridging period’ from July 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009.

The Morrison government has introduced a bill into parliament that seeks to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 and finally put an end to zombie agreements.

NatRoad has already expressed support for the reforms to casual engagement set out in the bill and is currently preparing a submission to a Senate select committee on the bill.

A key reform under the bill is that agreements which currently remain ‘preserved’ will come to an end on July 1, 2022.

As mentioned, these zombie agreements refer to various enterprise agreements made prior to the commencement of the Fair Work Act, and those made during the ‘bridging period’ prior to the commencement of the system of modern awards.

Zombie agreements have created complex and frustrating outcomes for employees and this bill is a pragmatic way to address the challenges associated with these agreements. Employees covered by

these instruments will revert to being covered by the applicable modern award in full unless they are covered by a newly negotiated enterprise agreement.

There is a transition phase to July 1, 2022.

Read how NatRoad welcomed moves towards IR reform, here

This change could have significant implications for businesses that still rely on these old industrial instruments in lieu of modern awards, inclusive of a required increase in pay as a result of the changes in the bill.

The government has framed this reform as a means of correcting pay rates for employees receiving rates and allowances below the relevant modern award, providing an even playing field and removing the competitive advantage enjoyed by employers using these outdated agreements.

While the bill has been introduced into parliament, we expect a period of debate and negotiation and there is current Senate committee consideration before the bill becomes law.

As stated, anyone with enterprise agreements made during the ‘bridging period’ should assess their current arrangements and prepare for their workplace arrangements to be covered by an applicable modern award or look to negotiate a new enterprise agreement.

NatRoad recommends the latter course of action.

NatRoad’s advisors are experienced in assisting employers meet their legal obligations in employment matters, including enterprise bargaining agreements.

For more information and advice about your obligations, NatRoad members can contact an advisor on (02) 6295 3000 or

Warren Clark is CEO of the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad)



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