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Secure jobs, better pay?

16 November 2022

Federal Parliament has considered the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 that proposes to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 (as well as other work-related legislation).

Changes that the bill proposes to the Fair Work Act include:

  • amending the objects of the Act to include the promotion of job security and gender equity
  • guiding the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in assessing equal remuneration and work value cases by requiring that assessment be free of assumptions based on gender and include consideration of whether there has been historical gender-based undervaluation of the work
  • establishing a Pay Equity Expert Panel and a Care Community Sector Expert Panel to determine equal remuneration cases and certain award cases
  • prohibiting pay secrecy by giving employees a positive right to disclose (or not disclose) information about their own remuneration and any related terms and conditions of their employment to any other person, as well as to ask other employees about these things
  • prohibiting sexual harassment in connection with work (to implement recommendation 28 of the Respect@Work Report)
  • adding the protected attributes of breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status to the existing anti-discrimination provisions (this aligns with other Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation)
  • limiting the use of fixed term contracts
  • expanding the circumstances in which an employee may request flexible work arrangements and empowering the FWC to resolve disputes regarding flexible work arrangements
  • amending the requirements for approval of an enterprise agreement
  • simplifying the process for initiating bargaining in certain circumstances
  • amending the Better Off Overall Test to make it fit for purpose – simple, flexible, and fair
  • enabling the FWC to vary enterprise agreements to correct errors, defects or irregularities
  • providing for a new intractable bargaining declaration scheme
  • amending certain processes relating to industrial action and Protected Action Ballots
  • removing limitations on access to the low-paid bargaining stream and the single-interest employer authorisation stream
  • amending provisions relating to making multi-enterprise agreements (to be known as cooperative workplace agreements)
  • amending small claims procedures to enable unpaid entitlement recovery
  • prohibiting national system employers from advertising employment at a rate of pay that would contravene the Act

Because the bill proposes significant reform to Australian workplace laws, particularly regarding the multi-employer bargaining provisions, it has been vigorously debated in the House of Representatives.

While the bill was approved by the House of Representatives after a third reading and referred to the Education and Employment Legislation Committee, further amendments have already been flagged by the Government.

The Committee will issue its report on 17 November 2022 and the Senate will consider the bill in the form that the House of Representatives finally approves. Justice Connect is monitoring developments and will keep you posted on any further updates.