As a leading workforce solutions provider, ManpowerGroup is pleased to provide an overview of some of the most recent developments in the Australian Industrial Relations (IR) legislative landscape and look ahead at what is likely to come over the next 6 months. For a discussion on how ManpowerGroup may be able to assist you to prepare for these changes from a workforce solutions perspective please reach out to your local ManpowerGroup Australia office for a confidential discussion.
Gender pay gap reporting
In April 2023, the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Act 2023 was passed into law. This introduced a range of reforms aimed at closing the gender pay gap. From early 2024, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency will commence publishing data around the gender pay gaps of employers with 100 or more workers. The first report will focus on information provided by employers over the reporting period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.
The publication of this information will likely have an impact on each employers’ ability to attract talent into their workforce.
Protecting Worker Entitlements Bill
Following on from the suite of IR reforms passed in December 2022, the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Bill 2023 (“June 2023 IR amendments”) passed through the Senate on 22 June 2023.
The main legislative changes implemented via the passage of the June 2023 IR amendments include:
- Changes to unpaid parental leave entitlements which means that eligible workers can increase the number of unpaid parental leave days they take from 30 days to 100 days over a 24-month period. The legislation also removes the existing restriction on couples taking more than 8 weeks unpaid parental leave at the same time.
- Superannuation will now be guaranteed as a right under the National Employment Standards.
- Authorised payroll deductions will now be less administratively burdensome moving forward.
- Clarifying that temporary migrant workers are entitled to rights and protections under the Fair Work Act.
National Minimum Wage and Award Minimum Wage increases
The National Minimum Wage, which applies to employees not covered by a Modern Award or registered agreement, increased on 1 July 2023 to $882.80 per week/$23.23 per hour.
Modern award minimum pay rates increased by 5.75%. The increase takes effect from the first full pay period after 1 July 2023.
Businesses should consider undertaking an audit of pay rates to ensure the increases have been properly actioned across their workforce.
Looking ahead to the second half of 2023
Implementation of final changes enacted through the Secure Job, Better Pay Bill
There is a final round of amendments still to be enacted from the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022.
On and from 6 December 2023 the following changes will come into effect:
- Changes to fixed term contract arrangements
Employers will be precluded from entering into new fixed/max term contracts for a term longer than two years (including extensions) or which are extended on more than one occasion, regardless of length.
There are a number of exceptions to the new limitations including:
- Where the employee is engaged to work on a specific task.
- Apprentices and trainees.
- Undertaking work during a peak period or in an emergency.
- Where the employee earns above the high-income threshold each year (presently $167,500).
- Where a Modern Award applies and permits engagement on a fixed term contract for an unlimited period.
- Delaying re-engaging an employee for a period.
- Terminating the employee for a period.
- Making slight alterations to the type of work performed to enable re-engagement on a new fixed term contract.
- Automatic termination of “Zombie” EA’s
Under the legislation, “zombie” enterprise agreements (those made before the Fair Work Act commenced in 2009) will automatically terminate on 7 December 2023.
Employers should already have written to impacted employees to give them notice of the termination and any of the covered parties may apply to the Fair Work Commission to have the termination date extended.
Further reforms on the horizon?
A further round of IR reforms is expected to be considered before Parliament in the second half of 2023. In early 2023 the Government invited consultation on a range of measures which include:
- Stand up for casual workers – aims to develop an objective definition for the classification of casual workers
- ‘Same job, same pay’ – reforms aimed at ensuring that labour hire workers are paid the same rate as directly employed workers to do the same job. The consultation has sought feedback on issues such as how the different labour hire arrangements should be treated under the legislation, how should “same job” be defined and what constitutes “same pay” for the purposes of the legislation.
- Criminalisation of wage theft – with the objective of introducing criminal offences into the Fair Work Act for wage underpayment and serious pay records mismanagement.
- Extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission to cover “employee-like” forms of work – intended to address the “gig economy”
- Recognise the rights of employees to challenge unfair contract terms
- Improve Fair Work Act protections against discrimination, adverse action, and harassment
- A single national framework for labour hire regulation – which would potentially replace the current state and territory-based licensing regimes which lead to increased cost and complexity for labour hire providers
*The information in this publication is general advice only and does not take into account the specific circumstances of your business.
Connect with a ManpowerGroup IR specialist to find out how these legal changes affect your business