On 2 December 2022, the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill amendments to the Fair Work Act passed parliament.
The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022 (the Act) received royal assent on Tuesday 6 December 2022.
The Act amends workplace relations laws relating to bargaining, job security, gender equality, compliance and enforcement, workplace conditions and protections and workplace relations institutions.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the reforms were a “victory” for workers and businesses, because it would improve pay and productivity.
“Today is a win for the heroes of the pandemic, the cleaners, the disability workers, the aged care workers, the early childhood educators,” Mr. Albanese said.
“They got our thanks but they deserve more than that, they deserve better conditions and they deserve better pay.”
Much of the media focus on this bill has been around multi-employer bargaining. This is the most controversial aspect of the bill, and has had union and business leaders at loggerheads for the past few months.
The new laws appear to make it easier for unions to negotiate pay deals that cover multiple similar businesses. The most common examples are sectors like child care and aged care, where there are many employers with lots of employees doing similar work.
Business groups have firmly opposed the changes, citing two primary concerns:
Other key changes include:
The new laws mean employees will no longer be forced to keep their pay a secret. Employees can now decide if they want to share their information or not.
Flexible working arrangements
Under the new legislation, employers will be prevented from unreasonably refusing requests from staff who are trying to balance caring duties with their professional job.
The government has made it clear they want employers and employees to ideally work together to find a solution but if matters are not resolved, employees now have the right to involve the Fair Work Commission and go through formal arbitration.
Fixed term contracts
Instead of people being put on rolling fixed-term contracts (such as for six or twelve months) employers will now only be able to offer a maximum of two consecutive contracts or contracts that span two years – whichever of the two is shorter.
Labor hopes this will result in a greater number of employees on permanent contracts, with the job security that comes with permanent employment.
Need more detail?
Full information on the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill is available from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations website. A fact sheet summarising measure of particular interest to small businesses is also available.
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