Changes to workplace laws

Recently, the Australian Government passed several new workplace laws. Part of the government’s “Closing Loopholes” legislation, these laws will take effect at different times, starting between December 2023 and August 2025.

These changes affect several areas of importance to businesses, as follows:

The right to disconnect

Eligible employees will have the right to refuse employer or third-party contact outside of working hours unless the refusal is unreasonable. This means that an employee can refuse to monitor, read or respond to any communication from their employer or a third party. Several factors must be considered for such a refusal to be considered unreasonable.

Wage underpayments

Intentional underpayment of wages by an employer will become a criminal offence. Certain exceptions to this rule apply, including payment for superannuation contributions or payment for taking long service leave. Penalties apply to both a company and an individual, and the new laws increase the maximum penalties applicable.

Casual employment

Several changes have been made to casual employment laws, including new rules on how casual work is defined, a new pathway established for eligible employees to change to permanent employment if they choose to, and rules for how an employer responds in accepting or refusing such a change.

Labour hire
New orders now ensure that labour hire employees can apply to the Fair Work Commission for a regulated labour hire arrangement order.  This ensures that a labour hire employee is paid no less than the rate they would receive if they were under an enterprise agreement.

Independent contractors

New definitions of ‘employee’ and ‘employer’ are being added to the Fair Work Act alongside new minimum standards being set up to protect independent contractors. These cover those who perform work in the gig economy, as well as regulated contractors, such as those in the road transport industry.

Unions and registered organisations

Changes have been made to the right of entry permits, which allow union officials to enter a workplace or business premises to investigate contraventions or hold discussions. New rights and protections have also been introduced for workplace delegates, that is, employees appointed or elected to represent members of the organisation in the workplace.

Enterprise agreements

Updates have been made to enterprise bargaining including that a franchisee can bargain separately to make single enterprise agreements or for a multi-enterprise agreement. New rules now allow employers and employees covered by a single interest to transition to a single enterprise agreement.

More information on these changes and when they start can be found on Fair Work’s Closing Loopholes page.

Employers must remain aware of these changes and updates, and ensure they take steps as appropriate to remain compliant as a result of these changes. Wurth HR offers consulting and training on the issues addressed above.  Feel free to contact us if you have questions or require guidance on the specific steps your business needs to take.
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