Business grapples with IR reforms

Parliament House, CanberraAs businesses wait for next month’s release of the Federal Government’s latest round of workplace relations reforms, many are still grappling with the significant changes that have been implemented over the past year. 

CCIWA Workplace Relations Director Ryan Martin says the new laws have a wide range of implications for employers and the industrial landscape. 

“There’s no doubt the reforms are causing headaches, especially for small and family businesses,” he says. 

“It’s especially difficult for businesses without dedicated HR teams to keep up with these changes, let alone understand what it means for their business. 

“In saying that, even well-resourced businesses are checking in and working with us to ensure they’ve got the key issues covered.”

Member concerns

The ramifications are far reaching, Martin says. 

“Businesses need to ensure they have updated things like employment contracts and policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant with them,” he says.

“This comes on top of mounting cost and other operational pressures. 

“Our team is seeing a surge in Members reaching out to understand what they need to do and to also get a feel for what’s coming down the line.” 

Some of the recent changes to employment laws in Australia include: 

  • Prohibition on pay secrecy terms and new workplace rights: New employment contracts can no longer require employees to keep their pay secret and there are new workplace rights for employees around disclosing their pay. 
  • Limited use of fixed-term contracts: fixed-term and maximum-term contracts will be capped at two years, including extensions, unless one of the limited exemptions apply. Employers will need to provide any employees on a fixed-term contract with the new Fixed Term Contract Information Statement, which will be similar to the existing Information Statement for casual employees. 
  • Flexible working requests: Under the changes, employers have new obligations when responding to employees requests for flexible work arrangements. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) now has the power to deal with disputes relating to requests for flexible work through conciliation or arbitration. Employers should familiarise themselves with their new obligations and incorporate them into internal policies and procedures. 
  • Family and domestic violence leave entitlement: All employees will be entitled to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave at their full rate of pay. Additionally, employers are required to keep information regarding the use of family and domestic violence leave confidential, including on employees’ pay slips. 
  • Small claims proceedings increased: The maximum amount of small claim proceedings has been increased. Courts can deal with claims up to $100,000 in small claims proceedings, an increase from the existing $20,000. 
  • New attributes included in the anti-discrimination employment laws: Three new protected attributes have been introduced into the Fair Work Act: breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status and are now attributes protected from discrimination under the FW Act. 
  • Equal renumeration measures: The FWC has expanded scope to make equal remuneration orders which increase the pay of a particular class of employees in the pursuit of gender pay equity. Additionally, employers in female-dominated industries should engage with their Chamber of Commerce or industry association in anticipation of potential equal remuneration orders. 
  • New positive duty for employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace: It is now necessary for employers to take reasonable and proportionate proactive action to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring in the workplace. 

To keep up to date with the latest IR reforms and keep up with what CCIWA is doing for Members, click here, Changes to Workplace Laws — CCIWA 

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