Changes to industrial relations, what businesses need to know

Secure Australian Jobs Plan CCIQ Unpacks Published on 29 June 2022

A new Federal Government means changes to industrial relations. Now the election is over, CCIQ HR Services General Manager Jason Wales takes a look at the Federal Government’s election commitments on business requirements, what they mean for Queensland businesses and how CCIQ can support you to navigate any changes.

 

What businesses need to prepare for and where to access support 

There are 11 elements to the Secure Australian Jobs Plan, outlined below with some commentary on intention.  CCIQ will keep you up to date on all changes and provide information on how they will affect business, plus what steps to take to ensure you are meeting legislative requirements.  

 

1. Objects of the Fair Work Act

  • Include secure work as an objective of the Fair Work ActIncluding job security as an object of the Fair Work Act ensures the Fair Work Commission must consider job security in all its decision-making. 

 

2. Gig work 

  • Extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission to include employee-like forms of work, allowing it to better protect people in new forms of work from exploitation and dangerous working conditions. This change will allow the Fair Work Commission to make orders for minimum standards for new forms of work, such as gig work.  

  • Ensure the Fair Work Commission has the capacity and flexibility to include employee-like forms of work: that is, intervene or inquire into all forms of work and determine what rights and obligations may or may not apply. 

 

3. Casual employment 

  • Legislate a fair, objective test to determine when a worker can be classified as casual, so employees have a clearer pathway to permanent work. The meaning of casual employment has evolved and been upheld many times through common law. It has been characterised as the “absence of a firm advance commitment as to the duration of the employee’s employment or the days or hours the employees will work”.  

 

4. Labour hire 

  • Ensure workers employed through labour hire companies receive no less than workers employed directly. 

5. Underpayments / wage theft 

  • Legislate to make wage theft a criminal offence.   

  • Consult with unions, states and territories, and employer groups.  

  • Federal wage theft laws will not override existing state and territory laws where they currently operate. 

 

6. Limiting the use of Fixed Term Contracts 

  • Limit the number of consecutive fixed-term contracts an employer can offer for the same role, with an overall cap of 24 months.  

  • Amend the Fair Work Act to limit fixed term contracts for the same role to two consecutive contracts or a maximum duration, including renewals, of two years.  

  • There will be a mechanism for exceptions in limited circumstances. 

 

7. Secure Australian Jobs Code 

  • Introduce a Secure Australian Jobs Code to ensure taxpayers’ money being spent through government contracts is being used to support secure employment for Australian workers. This Code will establish guidelines with respect to:  

  • The fair treatment of workers, including job security - Fair and reasonable wages and conditions 

  • Ethical and sustainable practices such as ensuring environmentally sustainable outcomes - Compliance with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 

  • The consideration of local industry workforce capability and capacity, particularly in regional Australia. 

 Complying with work legislation amendments

 

8. Model Employer 

Be a model employer and only utilise non-permanent employment where it is essential, and not as a way of simply minimisingit’s the government’s permanent workforce numbers

 

9. Portable leave  

  • Consult with state and territory governments, unions and industry to develop, where it is practical, portable entitlement schemes for Australians in insecure work. 

Employers contribute a designated percentage to the Long Service Leave Fund every three months. This is an on-cost to employers and not deducted from workers’ wages.The contribution rate is currently based on 2.7% of the total gross wage of all of their workers, this is to keep the costs uniform and relative between the smaller and larger employers and to make sure everyone is paying their fair share to fund the Long Service Leave scheme. 

 

10. Equal pay / better deal for women 

  • Strengthen the ability and capacity of the Fair Work Commission to order pay increases for workers in low paid, female dominated industries.  

  • Fully implement all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work Report and legislate the right to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave as a national employment standard.  

  • Lead a national push to close the gender pay gap by legislating so companies with more than 250 employees will have to report their gender pay gap publicly, prohibit pay secrecy clauses and give employees the right to disclose their pay if they want to.  

 

11. Abolishing the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) and the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) 

 

  • Create a new Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
  • Appoint former Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James as the secretary of the new Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

 

For support understating what these changes mean and the impact they may have on your business, contact CCIQ’s Employer Assistance Helpline 1800 731 988 or email advice@cciq.com.au