Secure Jobs and Top Pay Bill introduced in Parliament
The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill represents the biggest proposal for labor relations reform since the government took office earlier this year. We break down the proposed changes and what they mean for organizations.
Keys to go
- The planned Job Security and Better Pay Bill was introduced in Parliament this week. Despite resistance from the opposition, the government views the proposed overhaul of our labor relations system as a “good start“.
- The bill puts a strong emphasis on gender equity across a range of workplace relations issues, including outlawing pay secrecy clauses and creating new expert panels within of the Fair Work Commission.
- Other key changes include the limitation of fixed-term contracts, the introduction of an assisted negotiation system, the revision of the global best-off test and the implementation of automatic termination of old company agreements.
The Albanian government introduced the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022, better known as the “Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill,” in federal parliament this week. This is the government’s first major legislative commitment to workplace relations since the September 2022 Jobs and Skills Summit. overhaul the enterprise bargaining system, as well as abolish the Commission for Registered Organizations (ROCK) and the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABC).
Secure jobs, better pay the bill
On October 27, 2022, two days after tabling its 2022-23 budget, the government proposed legislation in federal parliament in line with its election promise to increase access to secure work and improve wages and conditions. The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill was introduced and read by the Honorable Tony Burke, Minister of Employment and Workplace Relations in the House of Representatives, and contains a number of initiatives which feature already in the government’s budget.
If passed by both houses, the bill would change the Fair Work Act 2009the Fair Work (Registered Organizations) Act 2009 and other key workplace legislation in a way that Labor has described as aiming “modernizing Australia’s industrial relations system and changing wages.“However, early indications are that the bill will be pushed back by the opposition, with Deputy Leader Sussan Ley already of the view that the legislation is”precipitate” and “Couldn’t come at a worse time for business“.
Gender equity and recognition
The themes of gender equity and recognition can be repeatedly identified throughout the draft text of the bill, with the majority of amendments aimed at achieving a better balance in access to employment and gender rights. These proposed changes include:
- Introduce an express workplace right for employees to disclose their compensation or ask about another employee’s compensation. Salary secrecy clauses (which often take the form of contractual clauses) will be rendered ineffective, meaning that employers will not be able to prohibit their employees from discussing their remuneration with their colleagues. The government hopes this will increase pay transparency, highlight gender pay gaps and reduce the occurrence of gender-based pay discrimination.
- Insertion of a new part 3-5A in the Fair Work Act dedicated to prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Directors may be vicariously liable for the acts of their employees or agents.
- Broaden anti-discrimination provisions in the Fair Work Act to include breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status.
- Add gender equity to the list of key objectives of the Fair Work Actwhich means that the critical decisions of the Fair Work Commission (CC), such as the annual salary review and modern award changes, must be consistent with this objective.
- Implement a legal principle of equal pay in federal law to better facilitate wage increases in low-paying, female-dominated sectors. This is intended to circumvent some of the difficulties caused by the current process of equal pay orders – orders that are often expensive, time-consuming and difficult to obtain. The bill will also allow the FWC to issue equal pay orders on its own initiative, rather than simply upon request.
- Creation of two new expert groups within the CC focusing on gender equity, one being assigned to the care and community sector and the other to pay equity as a whole. Panel members are involved in carrying out specific functions of the FWC, with the only panel currently in place carrying out the annual salary review.
Much of the bill seeks to abolish the ROC and the ABCC, two statutory authorities established under the previous government. The Fair Work Ombudsman will take over part of the resources and files of these authorities in order to carry out a reduced version of their functions, including in the building and construction sector.
Other labor relations reforms contemplated by the bill include:
- Prohibit fixed-term and maximum-term contracts exceeding 2 yearssubject to certain exceptions (such as essential work during peak periods, emergencies, apprenticeships/internships, when the employee earns above the high income threshold for the first year of the contract, or when the modern ruling applicable allows).
- Expand the process employers are required to undertake when responding to flexible working requestsincluding the obligation to discuss the request with the employee and to make genuine efforts to reach an agreement before refusing a request.
- Changing the thresholds required to terminate an enterprise agreement after its nominal expiration date.
- Automatic termination of transitional instruments based on agreements including collective agreements after specified time periods.
- Revise company agreement negotiation and approval processesincluding the modification of the “more favorable overall test” (BOOT) to an “overall assessment” of both more and less advantageous terms in relation to the applicable modern award which takes into account the views of the bargaining representatives.
- Overhaul of the multi-employer negotiation system to enable industrial negotiation between companies which share interests but are not otherwise associated or involved in joint ventures.
- Reforming low-wage bargaining clauses to help employees and employers in low-wage sectors such as aged care, disability care and early childhood education. The new “assisted negotiation” component will relax the current rules to allow the CC to authorize multi-employer negotiation and to help the parties reach an agreement after having considered whether it is appropriate for the parties to negotiate together.
- Compulsory arbitration for long-term “unsolvable” corporate negotiation conflicts.
- Ban job ads that specify illegal rates of pay.
The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill represents the biggest proposal for labor relations reform since the government took office earlier this year. It follows on from the Jobs and Skills Summit in September and the workplace issues it identified. When introducing the bill to the House of Representatives, Tony Burke said that he “won’t fix all the problems with our workplace relations system, but it’s a good start“, and that while he anticipated there would be attempts to delay his passage through Parliament, he considers there to be an emergency caused by a decade of low pay and precarious work.”Australians have waited long enough“, he said. ” And in the meantime, they came every day and did their job. Now is the time for us to make ours.“
Although it does not come into force as binding law until it is passed by both Houses of Parliament and is subject to change before it reaches its final form, employers must consider the impacts the bill may have on their businesses and workforce moving forward. of any change. As the gender equity aspects of the bill are less controversial than those of the corporate bargaining space, it is expected that these changes will be passed in the short to medium term future, although the rest of the bill is up for debate. Employers should review their employment contracts and employee confidentiality agreements to ensure that they do not include salary secrecy clauses, engage in a process of identifying and correcting any employee pay gaps gender-based workers and prepare for wage increases in low-wage sectors such as care industries. Changes to flexible working rights may also warrant a review of employer policies.
As the bill progresses, we will continue to provide commentary and analysis. We will focus in more detail on the most contentious areas of the bill, including proposals for corporate bargaining reform, including industry-wide bargaining in certain industries and new rules relating to upon termination of expired company agreements. The initiatives, if adopted as proposed, are very important and will require a new strategic approach to corporate bargaining for many employers.