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ALERT: Respect@Work Bill passes Parliament and Labor secures Senate support for IR Reform Bill


What should I be doing now?

Many clients are contacting us to ask if they should be doing anything. Mapien recommends that you continue to monitor the developments, and we will provide regular updates in the coming weeks. All employers should be reviewing the legislation to identify how it will impact their business – and how they can prepare for and manage the changes.

We will continue to monitor the Bill and will provide further updates once it has passed regarding its likely operational dates.

Respect@Work Bill

The Bill was passed by the Parliament today and will come into effect after receiving Royal Assent.

The Bill creates a positive obligation upon an employer to take reasonable and proportional measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and harassment on the grounds of sex. This positive obligation will require all employers to proactively take steps to eliminate sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. The Bill also amends the Sex Discrimination Act to make it unlawful for a person to subject another person to a hostile workplace on the grounds of sex.

Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill

The Bill will now be passed this year after Labor reached agreement with the Greens and cross-bench Senator David Pocock to ensure its passage through the Senate over the weekend. Labor has flagged that Parliament will sit on Saturday, 3 December, to reintroduce the Bill inclusive of the amendments.

Senator Pocock had previously indicated that he held concerns about Labor’s original proposal for multi-employer bargaining. That proposal provided for:

  • employee bargaining representatives to apply for an agreement authorisation to cover two or more employers, subject to majority support of the relevant employees;
  • employers and employee bargaining representatives to apply to vary an agreement authorisation to add or remove the name of an employer from the agreement, subject to meeting specified requirements; and
  • employers and employee organisations to apply to the FWC for approval of a variation to extend coverage of an existing agreement to a new employer and its employees, subject to meeting specified requirements.

The FWC would be required to consider whether there was a “common interest” between employers to be covered by a multi-employer agreement, and small business employers would be excluded from coverage.

A supported bargaining stream would be created to facilitate bargaining in areas where bargaining is difficult to achieve at a single employer level such as aged care, disability services and childcare. Bargaining would be facilitated under the auspices of the FWC, and an employer specified under bargaining authorisation could not bargain independently with its employees unless agreed to by the FWC.

To obtain Senator Pocock’s support, Labor has agreed that:

  • the definition of small business for the purposes of bargaining will be 20 employees (excluding seasonal workers and irregular casuals);
  • employers with fewer than 50 employees may be able to oppose an authorisation bid, with the onus falling upon the applicant union to satisfy the FWC that there is reasonable comparability with the other employers who would be subject to the authorisation;
  • employers with 50 or more employees may also oppose an authorisation bid but the onus will rest with them as to why they should not be caught by it;
  • Unions will not have a veto to stop an agreement being put to employees for ballot;
  • civil construction will be excluded from all streams of multi-employer bargaining; and
  • the Minister will have the power to declare an industry or occupation eligible for the supported bargaining stream.

Labor has also agreed to:

  • undertake a review of the amended Fair Work Act within 2 years of the Bill passing;
  • establish a National Construction Industry Forum to advise government on matters pertaining to the industry; and
  • establish an expert advisory panel to provide advice to government on the adequacy of Jobseeker and other support payments annually prior to each Federal budget.

Interested to learn more?

If you would like more information on the impact the IR reforms might have on your organisation, please contact us and a Mapien Workplace Strategist will be in touch within 24 hours.


Written by
Ben Cooper
Ben has an extensive background managing the interface between management, unions and employees on a wide range of industrial issues. Recognised for his ability to build trust and gain an in-depth understanding of client issues and organisational imperatives, Ben provides proactive and pragmatic advice to his clients.