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Labor’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill Unveiled, with Big Changes for Business

28 October 2022
tony gooch sapphire parsons
Read Time 3 mins reading time

What happened?

On 27 October 2022, the Albanese Labor Government unveiled their Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 (Bill), with a bold industrial relations agenda proposing to bring big changes for Australian businesses. Due to the volume of changes proposed in the Bill, our updates explaining these changes will be in a 3-part series.

The Bill is yet to pass the Senate, and, as a result, the changes outlined below are only “proposed” legislation.

Part 1 – What are the key changes you need to know about?

The key changes proposed by the Bill are:

  1. Job security and gender equity a key focus: Job security and gender equity will be included as key objectives of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) and modern awards. The Bill also empowers the Fair Work Commission to make equal remuneration orders, and to take gender equity into consideration when doing this.
  2. Construction industry changes: Abolishing the “construction watch dog”, and watering down the protections against unlawful strike action and coercion in the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (Cth).
  3. Easier strike action across multiple employers: Increasing the time in which employees can take protected industrial action to 3 months and enabling industrial action to occur across multiple employers.
  4. Prohibiting pay secrecy: Making it illegal for employment contracts to contain pay secrecy clauses and including a right enabling workers to discuss their pay and conditions of employment.
  5. Maximum of 2-year fixed term contracts: Prohibiting fixed term contracts being longer than 2 years and enabling consent arbitration in respect of this in the Fair Work Commission or claims to be brought in the small claims divisions of Federal Courts.
  6. Protections against sexual harassment: Proving stronger protections against sexual harassment and vicarious liability for employers under the FW Act and enabling escalation to Federal Courts.
  7. Harder to refuse requests for flexible working arrangements: Making it harder for employers to refuse requests for flexible working arrangements by requiring genuine attempts to reach agreement with employees.
  8. Easier process to make enterprise agreements: Simplifying the requirements to make an enterprise agreement by removing the 7-day access period and removing the requirement to wait 21 days after the last day a notice of employee representational rights is given before voting on an enterprise agreement.
  9. Changes to the assessment of whether enterprise agreements are better than the award: Amending the better off overall test to enable a “global assessment” of whether employees are better off overall than under the relevant modern award, instead of a line-by-line comparison, and enabling the views of employees to be considered when making this assessment. The Bill also empowers the Fair Work Commission to directly amend or remove a term that does not pass the better off overall test.
  10. Harder to terminate enterprise agreements: Making it harder to terminate expired enterprise agreements to reduce employees’ entitlements if this is unfair to employees and preserving “protected employees’” redundancy entitlements if these entitlements are better than the NES where agreements are terminated due to potential insolvency or bankruptcy.

    Additionally, if there’s an application to terminate an enterprise agreement during bargaining, the Fair Work Commission will consider if this adversely impacts employees’ bargaining positions.
  11. Goodbye to zombie agreements: Automatic sunsetting of zombie agreements 12 months after the Bill commences or after a default period. Employers will be required to give 6 months’ notice of the expiry to each employee covered by a zombie agreement.
  12. Special provisions for supported bargaining in low-paid industries: Facilitating “supported bargaining” in low paid industries by giving the Fair Work Commission additional powers to help parties reach agreement. Where an employer is specified in a supported bargaining authorisation, they cannot bargain for any other agreement in relation to those employees. To make a supported bargaining agreement, employees of each employer will be required to vote in favour of the agreement.

What can you expect next?

The Bill has been referred to Federal Parliament’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee, which is due to hand down their report on 17 November 2022.

What should you do?

Although the Bill has not yet passed as legislation, employers should begin readying themselves for these potential changes.

Our Employment, Safety and Migration Team at Macpherson Kelley can assist in preparing for what these changes could mean for you and will keep you updated with the key legal changes in this space.

Contact us

You can contact our Employment, Safety and Migration Team here.

stay up to date with our news & insights

Labor’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill Unveiled, with Big Changes for Business

28 October 2022
tony gooch sapphire parsons

What happened?

On 27 October 2022, the Albanese Labor Government unveiled their Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 (Bill), with a bold industrial relations agenda proposing to bring big changes for Australian businesses. Due to the volume of changes proposed in the Bill, our updates explaining these changes will be in a 3-part series.

The Bill is yet to pass the Senate, and, as a result, the changes outlined below are only “proposed” legislation.

Part 1 – What are the key changes you need to know about?

The key changes proposed by the Bill are:

  1. Job security and gender equity a key focus: Job security and gender equity will be included as key objectives of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) and modern awards. The Bill also empowers the Fair Work Commission to make equal remuneration orders, and to take gender equity into consideration when doing this.
  2. Construction industry changes: Abolishing the “construction watch dog”, and watering down the protections against unlawful strike action and coercion in the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (Cth).
  3. Easier strike action across multiple employers: Increasing the time in which employees can take protected industrial action to 3 months and enabling industrial action to occur across multiple employers.
  4. Prohibiting pay secrecy: Making it illegal for employment contracts to contain pay secrecy clauses and including a right enabling workers to discuss their pay and conditions of employment.
  5. Maximum of 2-year fixed term contracts: Prohibiting fixed term contracts being longer than 2 years and enabling consent arbitration in respect of this in the Fair Work Commission or claims to be brought in the small claims divisions of Federal Courts.
  6. Protections against sexual harassment: Proving stronger protections against sexual harassment and vicarious liability for employers under the FW Act and enabling escalation to Federal Courts.
  7. Harder to refuse requests for flexible working arrangements: Making it harder for employers to refuse requests for flexible working arrangements by requiring genuine attempts to reach agreement with employees.
  8. Easier process to make enterprise agreements: Simplifying the requirements to make an enterprise agreement by removing the 7-day access period and removing the requirement to wait 21 days after the last day a notice of employee representational rights is given before voting on an enterprise agreement.
  9. Changes to the assessment of whether enterprise agreements are better than the award: Amending the better off overall test to enable a “global assessment” of whether employees are better off overall than under the relevant modern award, instead of a line-by-line comparison, and enabling the views of employees to be considered when making this assessment. The Bill also empowers the Fair Work Commission to directly amend or remove a term that does not pass the better off overall test.
  10. Harder to terminate enterprise agreements: Making it harder to terminate expired enterprise agreements to reduce employees’ entitlements if this is unfair to employees and preserving “protected employees’” redundancy entitlements if these entitlements are better than the NES where agreements are terminated due to potential insolvency or bankruptcy.

    Additionally, if there’s an application to terminate an enterprise agreement during bargaining, the Fair Work Commission will consider if this adversely impacts employees’ bargaining positions.
  11. Goodbye to zombie agreements: Automatic sunsetting of zombie agreements 12 months after the Bill commences or after a default period. Employers will be required to give 6 months’ notice of the expiry to each employee covered by a zombie agreement.
  12. Special provisions for supported bargaining in low-paid industries: Facilitating “supported bargaining” in low paid industries by giving the Fair Work Commission additional powers to help parties reach agreement. Where an employer is specified in a supported bargaining authorisation, they cannot bargain for any other agreement in relation to those employees. To make a supported bargaining agreement, employees of each employer will be required to vote in favour of the agreement.

What can you expect next?

The Bill has been referred to Federal Parliament’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee, which is due to hand down their report on 17 November 2022.

What should you do?

Although the Bill has not yet passed as legislation, employers should begin readying themselves for these potential changes.

Our Employment, Safety and Migration Team at Macpherson Kelley can assist in preparing for what these changes could mean for you and will keep you updated with the key legal changes in this space.

Contact us

You can contact our Employment, Safety and Migration Team here.