Changes to the Federal Industrial Relations Framework.

Changes to the nation’s Industrial Relations framework as part of the strategy to ‘regrow’ jobs lost due to COVID-19 are expected to be put to Parliament before Christmas 2020.

Five ‘Working Groups’ have been in negotiations for 3 months in relation to the following areas of reform:

  1. Casuals and fixed term employees: exploring opportunities to increase clarity and certainty about casual employment arrangements.

  2. Award Simplification: exploring ways to simplify awards in industries particularly distressed by COVID-19.

  3. Enterprise Agreements: exploring ways to ensure a fair, transparent and simple agreement making system.

  4. Compliance and Enforcement: exploring ways to further enhance the effectiveness of the workplace relations compliance framework, including addressing wage underpayments.

  5. Greenfields Agreements: focusing on simplifying negotiation of agreements for new enterprises, activities, projects, or undertakings.

While the formal Working Group meetings concluded on 18 September 2020, the government is continuing discussions to settle a package of reforms.

It is anticipated that the criminalisation of wage theft will be addressed at a Federal level as part of these reforms, and the Australian Financial Review has reported that a concession has been made by the ACTU which would, if adopted, reduce the fines and legal processes applicable to employers who inadvertently underpay workers (and who agree to pay those workers back), with the full brunt of civil and criminal penalties to be directed at employers wilfully underpaying workers. You may also wish to read our article about the Criminalisation of Wage Theft.

The team at Terri Bell & Co will keep an eye on the proposed changes to the nation’s Industrial Relations Framework, and how these changes may affect your business. Please contact our office to arrange a time to speak with our team should you have any questions about the matters discussed in this article or your workplace laws and your obligations generally. Call us on 61 2 9191 9856 or email for more information.

IMPORTANT NOTICE – The information contained in this article is not intended to be comprehensive. It is general in nature and is not intended to be used as a substitute for legal or other professional advice. You must seek specific professional advice tailored to your personal circumstances before taking any action based on this article.

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