february wrap up – changes to employment law

February Wrap Up – Changes to Employment Law

February saw quite a few changes for workplace & employment law come into place, with more to come on the horizon. To help keep you up to date and compliant with these important changes, we’ll be doing a monthly wrap up series covering key commencement dates for any changes to employment law & a quick note on next steps.

Read on to find out what’s happened in the realm of industrial relations from Dec 2022-Feb 2023.

In effect from 7 January 2023

Ads for job vacancies cannot include any pay rates that would breach the Fair Work Act or a Fair Work ‘instrument’ (usually referring to awards or enterprise agreements).

Checklist: Make sure you’re up to date with the relevant pay rates for your industry and check any job advertisements you create to ensure details are correct. Note that this change applies to ads posted before 7 January 2023 too, so make sure you check ‘older’ ads from last year as well.

In effect from 6 February 2023

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has now been abolished.

Checklist: Be aware that any on-going matters that were previously in-front of the ABCC have now been transferred to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). Responsibilities and functions previously covered by the ABCC have now also been assigned to the FWO. For more information on what the ABCC abolition means, click here

There are also several changes that came into effect 7 December 2022. Here’s a quick summary

Pay Secrecy

Employees now have the right to share or not share information about their pay. Employee contracts are no longer able to include clauses that require employees to keep their pay a secret.

Checklist: Make sure any new employment contracts are up to date with any pay secrecy clauses removed. For contracts that were in place before 7 December 2022, just note any pay secrecy clauses within them are rendered inconsistent with the new laws (i.e. those specific causes are invalid but the rest of the contract still stands).

EBAs

The Fair Work Commission now has powers to correct any errors in enterprise agreements, either using its own discretion or through an application from an employer, employee or union that is covered by the agreement.

For new agreements – in some limited circumstances, employees can initiate the bargaining process by writing to their employer or through a bargaining representative. Further, the FWC, upon request, can make a ‘bargaining order’ to initiate the process, even if the employer has refused to agree to the bargaining.

There are now changes to termination of an enterprise agreement (EA) before their nominal expiry date- if the FWC is satisfied that any one of the following reasons are met, it must terminate an EA. There are also other considerations it will have to take in its decision, including the views of all parties involved (the employer/s, employees, any unions covered). Note that these changes apply to applications already before the FWC and new applications.

Checklist: Just be aware that there’s some significant changes being introduced to the EBA process, the above is just the tip of the iceberg! Now would be a good time look into your EBAs – or your plans to start a new one – reach out to a consultant to chat next steps and get ahead of the game.

New Protected Attributes

Breastfeeding, gender identity, intersex status are now all protected attributes at work.

Checklist: Employees cannot be discriminated against at work because of any of these attributes (including the attributes previously already on the list) and employers cannot take adverse action against their employees on the basis of any of these protected attributes. Make sure your relevant workplace policies are updated to include this change and ensure your staff are aware of these policies.

Difficult conversations are rarely a ‘one and done’ affair. To create effective change and really resolve an issue, following up is essential. It might also be beneficial to discuss with the other party what following up might look like, to get their involvement in finding a resolution and for it to seem more like you’re working together to find it instead of giving the impression of it being a solely punitive affair.  

NEXT STEPS

These are just a quick summary of the changes so far. There’s a lot more to come over this year! The wrap up series is intended to help you keep track at the end of each month of what’s been introduced & what it means, but knowing what they are and knowing what to do are two different things. Reach out to us anytime to chat about what you’ll need to do for your business in light of the new changes – we can help you ensure peace of mind when it comes to your obligations and legal compliance, something that’s especially important with so many reforms rolling out.  

You can call us on 03 9087 6949 or email support@workplacewizards.com.au 

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