By Meng Cheong & Grace Convey
We frequently hear discussions of the imbalance between employers and employees, but there are a number of changes to Australian employment law being made under the Secure Jobs Better Pay initiative which have recently come into force increasing employee entitlements, some of which can also streamline obligations for employers.
Changes to federal law
The National Minimum Wage is now $23.23 an hour or $882.80 per week (an increase of 5.75%), effective 1 July 2023 under the Fair Work Act 2009. In addition, Superannuation has now increased for the financial year ending 2024 (up to 11% contribution by employers from 10.5% last year).
Under the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022, employees can now be awarded an increased cap of up to $100,000.00 (previously $20,000.00) through small claims court proceedings. This will assist workers in recovering significant unpaid entitlements, as they may appear in Small Claims Court without a lawyer in a move that empowers employees and frees up cases which may have otherwise gone through higher-level jurisdictions. The high-income threshold for unfair dismissal claims has also increased to $167,500 – should your income exceed this cap and not be covered by a modern award or an enterprise agreement, you will not be eligible to bring an unfair dismissal claim from 1 July.
Limitations on enterprise agreements
Starting from the 6th of June 2023 there are new limitations imposed on enterprise agreements. Commissioners examining new agreements must consider a Statement of Principles when deciding the validity of agreements, as well being able to amend agreements post-lodgement under the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT). They may also take other factors into consideration and must now make a global assessment about the reasonable foreseeability of an employee benefiting more from the enterprise agreement than the modern award. Additionally, there are now three types of multi-enterprise agreements:
- Cooperative workplaces agreements
- Single interest employer agreements
- Supported bargaining agreements.
Migrant worker entitlements
Migrant workers can breathe a sigh of relief as an adjustment to the Fair Work Act made by The Protecting Worker Entitlements Act allows employment contracts to remain valid despite breaches of the Migration Act 1958 for the purposes of the Fair Work Act. This is designed to prevent employee’s status as a visa-holder from being exploited and offer more safety to migrant workers who often complain of being forced into unsafe or unstable work to retain their visa status.
Parental Leave Allowances
Parental leave has also seen changes – ‘flexible unpaid parental leave’ is now offered for a period of 100 days at any time within 24 months of a child’s birth or adoption (more than tripling the allowance). Pregnant employees may be required to commence their unpaid parental leave up to six weeks prior to the expected birth of the child if their employer requests a medical certificate and it states that they are unfit for work. Both parents can be home at once, as the unpaid parental leave may now be taken by both partners concurrently, the 8-week maximum having been removed from the Act. New parents will now be able to enjoy more of the first years of family time together.
Victorian legislative changes
It is not only the federal Acts which have seen an update for the 2023-2024 financial year – there have been changes made to several of our state laws too:
Those looking to employ children under the age of 15 under the Child Employment (Amendment) Act 2022 will now be able to access a streamlined licensing system, allowing them to employ multiple young staff under the one license. Existing permits will remain in place until their expiry, reducing the pressure on businesses to immediately seek new licencing. The new system has increased monitoring from the Wage Inspectorate and is backed by the changes to supervision requirements. All employees must be supervised by someone over the age of 18, and supervisor records are to be retained by employers for five years, with additional requirements for children working in the entertainment industry. Additionally, not-for-profit organisations are no longer exempt from the requirements and must now comply with the Act.
Employers in Victoria are also now obliged to dispose of their COVID-19 vaccination records unless permitted by any other state or federal law to retain them, following the revocation of the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (COVID-19 Vaccination Information) Regulations.
If you would like to know how these changes might affect you or how you might be able to better protect yourself against any issues which may arise from these changes, please contact us today at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: This publication contains comments of a general and introductory nature only and is provided as an information service. It is not intended to be relied upon as, nor is it a substitute for specific professional legal advice. You should always speak to us and obtain legal advice before taking any action relating to matters raised in this publication.