Some of the biggest changes to employment legislation in Australia since the Fair Work act was introduced in 2009 were passed at the end of 2022, and every business needs to undertake a review given fines of $66,600 being muted for each non-compliance.
Some of these changes are highly complex, so I wanted to take a quick opportunity to highlight areas where business' will be most exposed.
In brief there were changes to the Fair Work Act regarding Domestic Violence leave and Secure Jobs Better Pay along with the Respect at work bill.
For ease of understanding, I would focus on the following changes:
1 Introduction of paid domestic violence leave. The eligibility for paid domestic leave violence leave came in from 1st February 2023 for businesses with 15 or more people. This leave will be available to all employees from 1st August 2023 regardless of business size.
2 Pay secrecy. Here lies a key action point that businesses of any size should be aware of and take relevant action accordingly. Any clauses in employment contracts or policy terms prohibiting Employees from disclosing or discussing their salary with other staff no longer have effect. Employers should ensure that such clauses in employment contracts and policies are amended. From 6 June 2023, penalties will apply to any employers who still publish produce Employment Contracts and policies prohibiting employees from disclosing or discussing their salaries.
3 Flexible working arrangements. The new laws will expand on the grounds where an employee can request a flexible work arrangement. Employers will still have the right to refuse a flexible work request on reasonable business grounds but only after consulting and generally trying to reach agreement with the employee. A new process will be set up whereby employees can access the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate where disputes over requests for flexible working arrangements cannot be resolved with the employer.
4 Discrimination and sexual harassment. The Fair Work act has extended the definition which now
includes gender identity, intersex status and breastfeeding in list of attributes which are protected. From 7th March 2023 the act will also prohibit someone who experiences sexual harassment
during any interaction in the workplace. This could include interactions with client’s, customers, supplies as well as other employees. A new process will be set up whereby employees can
approach Fair Work Commission to make stop sexual harassment orders which on the face of it looks similar to the current process regarding stop bullying orders. As well as reviewing and
amending policies, I would recommend training as part of a regular re-orientation program.
5 Fixed term contracts. New restrictions will come into force from 7th December 2023 with restrictions on fixed term contracts that prohibit a term of employment greater than two years. There are however some exceptions. Any employer who currently has fixed term contracts extending beyond two years should seek advice in advance prior to the changes coming in force.
6 Job advertisements. it is now unlawful to advertise a pay rate which is less than a minimum rate of pay under an award or an enterprise agreement.
7 Enterprise Bargaining. This is by far the most complex peace on all these changes. This may have no impact on a large number of a small to medium sized business'. However, any employers with current enterprise agreements should be seeking advice on how this might impact them
The above is a very brief summary. Key actions for employers will be to:
- Review existing Employment documentation and polices
- Educate your people through a tailored and structured re-orientation program
- Be pro-active in understanding your workforce and any issues that need addressing. Programs like STAR Workplace and Fusion Culture are tailored made for this.
If you have any questions or need any assistance on the above, please book a discovery meeting with me here.
I do of course need to add, that this is general advice and cannot provide legal advice.