Consultation begins for New Workplace Reform
By Ezra Pyers, Senior Workplace Relations Consultant
The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022 received royal assent on December 7, 2022 with a number of amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (‘FW Act’). A number of amendments occurred in late 2022, and other amendments will continue to do so until December 2023.
There are further reform objectives expected in the second half of this year. As highlighted by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, the following is a summary of reform objectives for later in 2023.
Please note this article provides a summary of a discussion paper the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has released, and does not represent finalised legislation. Business Chamber Queensland is assessing the discussion paper and considering a position in each of the items listed below.
Review the definition of ‘casual worker’
At present, when assessing whether a casual employee is truly a casual, there is little consideration to whether the working arrangements reflect that of a casual beyond what was agreed to at the time of employment.
The government’s reform objective in this area is to review whether the current assessment provisions in the FW Act are suitable, or whether there should be a subjective test that considers the working arrangements at the time of assessment.
Ensure “Same Job, Same Pay”
At present, it is possible for employees performing the same job in the same workplace to be paid differently because one is employed directly, and the other through labour hire. The goal of this reform is to remove that difference in pay and conditions.
Criminalise wage theft nationally
Non-payment for work performed is a criminal act in multiple states across Australia, including here in Queensland, to intentionally underpay employees. The reform under consideration is to introduce a national system for criminalising intentional wage theft.
Extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission to include ‘employee-like’ forms of work
There are limited powers under the FW Act to address disputes in the gig economy and other ‘employee-like’ forms of work. Furthermore, there are no minimum standards of pay and conditions. The intention of this proposed reform would be to provide a legal framework for managing these ‘employee-like’ forms of work and setting minimum standards.
This reform has a special focus on the Road Transport Industry which has traditionally involved ‘employee-like’ forms of work and where this is an identifiable link between minimum standards and safe work practices.
Provide stronger protections against discrimination, adverse action and harassment
There are several national and state laws that protect workers from discrimination and harassment and, as a result, there are overlaps in those laws and differences in language. The goal of this reform is to unify the language where possible, provide clarity over how existing protections apply and ensure those protections reflect community expectations.
Other proposed reforms focus on the following:
- labour hire, including a national labour hire scheme which may be similar to what Queensland currently has,
- small business redundancy exemption and the Fair Entitlements Guarantee
- enterprise bargaining provisions as they relate to Fair Work Commission model terms and the preservation of existing single interest agreements
A full list of the proposed reforms can be found here.
Consultation and feedback.
As the peak body for Queensland businesses, Business Chamber Queensland will be considering the proposed reforms list and will provide feedback on them.
Further information and the ability to provide feedback will be promoted via our IR Alert e-newsletter. Therefore, please keep an eye out for the opportunity to inform our feedback to the government.
More information and assistance
A copy of the Code can be downloaded from the WorkSafe Queensland website. Members are encouraged to download a copy and read it thoroughly.
Business Chamber Queensland members requiring assistance with workplace matters are encouraged to contact the Workplace Relations team on telephone 1300 135 822 or via email: [email protected].
Non members, or members who do not have HR services as part of their membership, can also contact the team for assistance at a competitive hourly consulting rate.