The current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation affects how entry permits are returned to the Fair Work Commission. The following information explains how the process has changed and what officials of registered organisations can do if difficulties arise.
As the Commission’s counters are currently closed, it is not possible to return a permit in person at our offices. Instead, permits should be posted to any Commission office. Please note that it may take longer for the Commission to process permits returned by post at this time.
There is no obligation to return a current permit prior to receiving a new permit. Accordingly, permit applications will be processed and new permits issued and sent to organisations without the permit holder having returned their current permit.
The Commission will, after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, once again be available to assist organisations and permit holders by conducting permit swaps on a voluntary basis to assist permit holders in complying with their legislative obligations.
It is a requirement under section 517(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 that a Fair Work entry permit holder return their permit within 7 days of it expiring.
Section 149(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires that a WHS entry permit holder return their permit within 14 days of it expiring.
Permit holders are expected to comply with the legislation. However, it may take the Commission longer to process returned permits during this period and, in some circumstances, social distancing requirements might prevent a permit holder from returning their permit. As such, it will assist if permit holders send an email to the Commission’s Registered Organisations Section (firstname.lastname@example.org) when their permit is due for return, confirming that:
The Commission will note this information on the permit holder’s file.
Although the Commission is not responsible for enforcing provisions requiring entry permits to be returned, in deciding whether to issue a permit the Commission may consider the relevant official’s history of returning permits. In this context, it is open to the Commission to take into account evidence of the steps the official has taken to return their permit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some organisations have enquired whether permits currently held by officials can be extended given the current circumstances. Where an application has been made for a new entry permit, the Commission has discretion to extend the official’s current permit under section 516(2) of the FW Act. This is a matter to be determined by the individual Commission Member or Delegate.
On the Check an entry permit page, typing any employee organisation (acronyms work) will create a complete list of every person in that organisation who has an entry permit, as well the issue and expiry dates. Go to the last page of the list to check which is the next permit to expire.
Use this to plan for applying for a new permit prior to the expiration date.
Fair Work entry permits are valid for 3 years from the date of issue. Each entry permit expires on the earliest of:
A Fair Work entry permit must be returned to the Fair Work Commission by the permit holder within 7 days of expiry. Substantial penalties apply for failing to return a permit.
WHS entry permits are valid for 3 years from the date of issue. Each entry permit expires on the earliest of:
A WHS entry permit must be returned to the Commission by the permit holder within 14 days of expiry. Substantial penalties apply for failing to return a permit.
The permit holder must return the original Fair Work permit to the Commission:
The permit holder must return the original WHS permit to the Commission:
The union must advise the Commission if:
The original entry permit is a hardcopy document and therefore must be returned by post to any Commission office.
Under current legislation, the original entry permit must be returned to the Commission. Electronic 'return' would mean that the original permit remains with the permit holder. The hardcopy permit must therefore be returned by post.
To reduce the amount of time a union official is without an entry permit, an application for a new permit can be made prior to the return of the previous permit.