A Changing Industrial Relations Landscape
Employers should be aware of legislative changes that have recently been formally approved in the Industrial Relations space. It is also important to keep informed of proposed changes which form part of the government’s Industrial Relations reform agenda.
Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave
From 1 February 2023, employees will be immediately able to access 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave. Employees will automatically accrue the full 10 days on each anniversary of the commencement of their employment, unlike other forms of paid leave, which accrues over time worked. Employees of small businesses will only be entitled to this from 1 August 2023. Full-time, part-time, and casual employees are all entitled to this paid leave.
On 28 November 2022, Parliament passed the Respect@Work Bill that will require employers to proactively take steps to end harassment and discrimination in the workplace, with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) monitoring and assessing compliance. These changes will be introduced through amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and are separate from other proposed measures discussed later in this article. What will this mean for your business? You will need to assess your current workplace culture, implement appropriate policies and procedures, and engage with your staff to provide proper training and support.
Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill
The government has proposed legislation that will have far reaching consequences on industrial and workplace relations matters, which will impact businesses in the future.
[Note that the issues below are subject to Parliamentary amendments and may not reflect its final form if passed.]
Employees will no longer be contractually barred from sharing or discussing their pay remuneration with their colleagues.
Gender Equity, Sexual Harassment and Anti-Discrimination
The Fair Work Act 2009 (‘Act’) will be amended to prohibit sexual harassment in connection with work, with employers potentially being held vicariously liable for the acts of their employees, contractors, and agents. Taken together with the Respect@Work legislation, it will be important to have robust policies and procedures in place to not only protect vulnerable employees, but also employers in terms of liability. Please contact Business Solutions Hub for assistance with developing and implementing such policies and procedures.
Gender equity will be included as a key objective of the Act, and there will be Federal efforts to increase remuneration in traditionally low paid female-dominated industries.
Anti-discrimination provisions in the Act will be expanded to include employees who identify as gender fluid, as well as employees who are required to breastfeed at their place of employment.
Limitations on Fixed-Term Contracts
Businesses who employ workers on a fixed-term basis must be aware of the proposed limit of 2 years, or 2 consecutive engagements on a fixed-term contract (whichever is shorter). Some exceptions have been identified at this stage, including essential work and apprenticeships.
Enterprise Bargaining Agreements
There are several proposed changes to the enterprise bargaining process, with specific focus on multi-enterprise bargaining, and the ‘Better Off Overall Test’ (‘BOOT’). The process for multi-enterprise bargaining will be made simpler, with companies no longer required to be legally associated or part of a ‘joint venture.’ This means businesses with shared interests can potentially come together to create a joint agreement on wages and entitlements. There are other implications with supported bargaining, which may replace the existing low paid bargaining scheme. Employers may be compelled to engage in the multi-enterprise bargaining process, subject to proposed exceptions such as small businesses of under 20 employees.
The BOOT assessment at the Fair Work Commission will be simplified, with a more holistic assessment of the terms as a whole, rather than a strict comparison with the relevant modern Award.
There will also be limitations on employers unilaterally terminating an agreement past its nominal expiry date.
Flexible Working Arrangements
Provisions in the Act will be expanded to obligate employers to engage in meaningful discussions with employees wanting to transition into flexible working arrangements.
The proposed changes, if passed, will have a significant impact on industrial and workplace relations matters going forward, which in turn will impact businesses. Business Solutions Hub will continually monitor developments and update employers as necessary.
Now is the time to start considering your policies, procedures, employment contracts and future Enterprise Agreements which will need to incorporate the above changes, when they are implemented.
Get in touch with the team at email@example.com to discuss your operational requirements, current procedures and workplace documentation in place, and a risk mitigation assessment going forward.