What are the workplace changes we can expect to see from the Albanese Government?
A change of Federal government often brings with it changes to industrial and workplace laws that impact how businesses engage with their employees. The election of the Albanese ALP Government is likely to be no different.
Tony Burke, Minster for Employment and Workplace Relations, has indicated that the Government’s initial focus on the resumption of parliament will be to legislate for 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave as a NES entitlement. Legislation to achieve broader industrial and workplace reforms will likely occur after the Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit occurs in early September 2022.
So what are the key areas in which we can expect changes?
The Government intends to support full gender equality by:
- Introducing a positive obligation upon employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and providing costs protections for complainants;
- Providing via the NES entitlements to unpaid parental leave of up to two years;
- Giving employees the enforceable right to request a change of hours or other flexible work arrangements for parenting and caring;
- Giving employees the right to work reasonable but not excessive hours;
- Expanding access to paid parental leave to increase support for parents and promote equal parenting. It’s goal is 26 weeks of paid parental leave at full pay and with superannuation funded through a combination of government and employer contributions and increased eligibility to enable paid parental leave to be shared. Over time, the Government will seek further expansion of leave in a way that enables more equal parenting;
- Delivering affordable, quality childcare and before and after school care, and will consider changes to tax, superannuation, work and industry arrangements to support this; and
- Ensuring flexible working arrangements accommodate unpaid caring work, including the care of family members with disability, without discrimination.
The Government intends to improve employee access to collective bargaining by:
- Enhancing employee driven multi-employer collective bargaining. It is likely that industry sector bargaining will become a predominant factor in traditional low paid industries with low rates of bargaining;
- Expanding good faith bargaining obligations to ensure that agreements are genuinely agreed to by a representative cohort of the workers to which they apply;
- Preventing the unilateral termination of collective agreements and providing for the automatic termination of “Zombie” agreements.
The Government intends to promote employee job security by:
- Introducing an objective definition of casual employment based upon the absence of a firm advance commitment as to the duration of the employee’s employment or the days or hours the employees will work;
- Establishing a national labour hire licensing scheme to regulate the industry and ensure that minimum legal standards are met. It intends to guarantee that labour hire workers receive the same pay and conditions as directly employed workers doing the same work.
- Limiting fixed term contracts for the same role to two consecutive contracts or a maximum duration, including renewals, of two years;
- Empowering the Fair Work Commission to deal with “employee-like” arrangements such as “gig-workers”;
- Extending sick leave, workers compensation, superannuation and minimum pay entitlements to employee-like arrangements.
It is important to note that whilst the Government have achieved a majority in the House of Representatives, it will need to rely upon crossbench support in the Senate to achieve its workplace reforms.