What does the change in the Australian Government mean for employers?
This week has seen a change in Australian Government, that will have significant impacts for employers across all sectors. In the lead up to the election, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) committed to introducing a range of major legislative reforms across the employment and industrial relations landscape. If implemented, these changes will significantly transform the industrial relations landscape and create several new challenges and regulatory obligations for employers.
Key changes for employers to consider are:
- Increased wages: The ALP has committed to supporting an increase in the national minimum wage to meet the headline inflation rate of 5.1%.
- Casual employees: In 2021 a new definition of a “casual employee” was inserted into Australia’s Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) last year. The ALP has pledged to restore elements of the previous common law definition of casual employment, allowing employees to rely on conduct during the employment relationship to challenge their status as a “casual employee”.
- Gig economy workers: Potential legislative reform to give the Fair Work Commission the power to grant minimum entitlements and standards to gig economy workers.
- Behaviour at work: Adopting all recommendations of the landmark Respect@work report, including the imposition of a positive obligation on employers to take measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and victimisation.
- Labour hire: A ‘same job, same pay’ policy which will mandate that workers employed through labour hire or other employment arrangements such as outsourcing will not receive less pay than directly employed workers.
- Industrial relations: A range of changes to the collective bargaining process including bolstering the obligation to bargain in good faith and limiting the ability to terminate collective bargaining agreements.
- Changes to employee minimum entitlements: Introduction of paid domestic and family violence leaves for all employees and the ability for employees to bring their own claims (rather than relying on the Australian Taxation Office) for unpaid superannuation.
- Criminal sanctions: Imposition of criminal penalties for underpayment of employees.
- Limiting fixed-term contracts: Legislative reform to provide that fixed term contracts can only be used for a maximum of two years.