New workplace reforms - what you need to know
Stephen Schoninger, Partner, Head of Employment & Workplace, Avant Law
Sunday, 19 February 2023
The recently introduced ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ legislation ushers in some of the most significant reforms to Australia’s workplace law landscape in over a decade. The amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FWA) affect businesses large and small, including medical practices.
The stated objective of the reforms is to promote job security, increase wages and promote gender equity. Some of the reforms took effect in December 2022, with others being introduced throughout 2023, so it is important for practice owners and managers to understand the implications. Here are the key points to be across:
- Sexual harassment is expressly prohibited in connection with work in the context of the FWA (adding additional avenues to redress work-related sexual harassment outside of those existing within anti-discrimination legislation), including a new dispute resolution framework allowing applications to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to resolve sexual harassment disputes.
- Protected attributes in the context of the discrimination provisions of the FWA now explicitly include breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status.
- Pay secrecy is prohibited. This means employers cannot include pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts and there is an express right for employees to ask other employees what they are paid and disclose their own pay to others.
- Fixed-term contracts will be subject to strict limitations. Those limitations include prohibiting maximum and fixed term contracts for periods of over two years, subject to certain exceptions where a term contract has a 'legitimate use'. Exceptions include fixed-term contracts for a specific task, as a part of a training arrangement, for essential work during peak periods, where an employer requires additional staff members for emergencies, or to replace a permanent employee who is absent for personal or other reasons.
- Flexible work rights for eligible employees have been enhanced, including by requiring employers to discuss the requested change with the employee and to genuinely attempt to reach agreement in relation to the request within 21 days. It also grants powers to the FWC to deal with disputes relating to flexible working requests, including through arbitration.
- Minimum pay rates need to be correct when advertising jobs. There is a prohibition on the advertisement of jobs at below minimum rates of pay (i.e. rates of pay below an applicable modern award or enterprise agreement rate of pay or, if no award applies, the national minimum wage).
- Enterprise bargaining changes enhance multi-employer bargaining while simplifying the existing single enterprise agreement approval process.
Avant Law’s Employment & Workplace team provide more detail on the reforms that have now passed into law, and some of the practical implications of the reforms for employers and employees in their article Secure Jobs, Better Pay workplace reforms become law. The article includes a table with details of when each of the amendments come into effect.
You can also read about the reforms brought in under the Respect at Work Act introduced at the end of 2022, which tighten protections against sexual harassment and other sex-based discrimination at work.
We can help
If you have questions or would like more information about how the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act will affect you or your business, please call 1800 867 113, or to organise a confidential discussion, please click here.
IMPORTANT: This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practise proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published.