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In case you missed it - Changes from December 2023

The Federal Government introduced several employment law changes last year, with varying commencement dates. Employers should be particularly mindful of the changes which commenced from December 2023 and the impacts they will have on the workplace as we settle into the new year.

The Federal Government introduced several employment law changes last year, with varying commencement dates.

Employers should be particularly mindful of the changes which commenced from December 2023 and the impacts they will have on the workplace as we settle into the new year.

Closing Loopholes

We recently reported on the Federal Government passing the first tranche of changes agreed under the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 (Closing Loopholes Act) - which you can find here.

The following changes commenced on 15 December 2023:

  • amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), including:

-  changes to the small business redundancy exemption provisions, applicable only to businesses who have downsized due to insolvency;

-  the new “same job, same pay” orders which may be made by the Fair Work Commission in relation to labour hire arrangements;

-  workplace delegates are now authorised to communicate with other employees who are current or prospective union members;

-  two new general protections which prohibit an employer from taking adverse action against a workplace delegate and an employee or prospective employee who has or have experienced family and domestic violence;

-  officials of a trade union or employee organisation who are assisting a State or Territory work health representative may now enter a workplace without an entry permit; and

-  compulsory conciliation conferences in protected action ballot matters;

  • the expanded functions of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to include silica safety and silica-related disease; and
  • the streamline of the workers compensation claims process for first responders who sustain post-traumatic stress disorder.

The balance of the changes introduced under the Closing Loopholes Act will commence from June 2024.

Secure Jobs, Better Pay – fixed term contracts

From 6 December 2023, the new limitations on fixed term contracts introduced under the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022 (Cth) commenced.

The new provisions have amended the FW Act making it unlawful for employers to engage employees on term contracts in the same role beyond two years (including any extensions or renewals) or two consecutive term contracts.

On 23 November 2023, the Fair Work Amendment (Fixed Term Contracts) Regulations 2023 (Regulations) were released providing clarity on the operation of the new fixed term contract provisions. You can find our summary of the Regulations here.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has also now released a ‘Fixed Term Contract Information Statement’ to be provided to employees entering into such contracts, which can be found here.

Protecting Workers Entitlements

Many of the changes introduced under the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Act 2023 (Cth) (Protecting Workers Entitlements Act) came into effect last year, to the exception of the following which commenced very recently:  

  • from 30 December 2023, employees are now entitled under the FW Act to authorise their employer to make varying and recurring salary deductions, only if such deductions are principally for their benefit; and  
  • from 1 January 2024, the National Employment Standards (NES) of the FW Act now include the right to superannuation contributions, meaning that unpaid or underpaid superannuation is a contravention of both the NES and the existing superannuation guarantee laws.

For more information of the changes introduced under the Protecting Workers Entitlements Act, you can find our summary here.

Respect@Work

The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 (Respect@Work Act) came into effect in November 2022. You can find a summary of the changes introduced here.

On 12 December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s new functions and powers commenced, allowing it to now monitor and enforce compliance with the new positive duty under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

Your next steps

If you need assistance navigating any of these changes, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Directors at sydney@workplacelaw.com.au or you can call us at (02) 9256 7500.

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