The last year has seen many changes to workplace and industrial relations law. Already, two sets of industrial reforms have been introduced. The first has focused on improving job security, remuneration, gender equality, and wage reviews, and the second has dealt with parental leave, super, pay deductions, and migrant workers.
However, on September 4 2023, a third set or ‘tranche’ of reforms was introduced.
What you should expect from this third tranche of reforms
This third tranche of industrial relations reforms intends to fix loopholes in workplace laws that have had the effect of “undercutting wages and conditions”. The reforms have focused on casual employment, the regulation of gig workers and the introduction of ‘same job, same pay’ rules.
One of the key reforms includes expanding the definition of the phrase “casual employment.” Currently, casual employment is assessed on the basis of an offer made by the employer and accepted by the employee. According to s 15A of the Fair Work Act, in determining whether an employee is a ‘casual’, the courts do not need to look at the post-contract conduct of the employer and employee.
This new set of industrial law reforms have proposed to change this. In the future, courts will be able to consider the post-contractual conduct of the employer and employee to determine whether a casual employee is in actuality a permanent employee. The reforms may even give a casual employee the opportunity to become permanent after 6 months of employment, under certain scenarios.
The reforms also plan to extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to framing laws and regulations aimed at establishing minimum standards for gig-workers. These reforms are intended to ensure that independent contractors retain their status while being entitled to greater safety standards and remaining protected against unfair dismissal. The interests of ride-share and food delivery drivers operating via online delivery platforms will hopefully fall under these laws.
Same Job, Same Pay
The Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Burke, has mentioned that these reforms also aim to ensure that labour hire workers are paid the same as employees, if they are both doing the same work.
Other Reforms to Look Out For
The reforms also intend to, among other things:
- Make underpaying your employees a criminal offence;
- Protect those employers from taking adverse action against their employees if they have been or are subject to domestic or family violence; and
- Empower the FWC to enter workplaces if they suspect businesses are underpaying their employees and to deal with disputes between principals and independent contractors over unfair terms.
From small businesses and franchises, to independent contractors and employees of all sorts, these reforms affect all who work or run a business.
Overall, these reforms appear to go beyond what a person is defined as and instead looks directly at what they are actually doing. It aims to compare the similarities between workers who have greater rights and those with lesser rights to ensure that everyone is being paid fairly according to the work they do. Whatever the effect of these changes, they will be significantly changing the rights and obligations of employees and employers.
To ensure that your business remains compliant and to navigate these reforms, do not hesitate to contact our team at OpenLegal. Call us on 1300 337 997 or fill in a webform to see how your business is effected and how we can help.