Industrial relations reform
The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021 passed both Houses of Parliament on 22 March 2021. Parliament made a number of amendments to the Bill before it was passed, making changes to the schedule concerning casual employment and removing all other schedules.
The department is currently reviewing the information on this web page to ensure it reflects the final version of the Bill and associated reforms.
The Bill includes a definition of 'casual employee' and provides that after 12 months of employment, casual employees who have worked a regular pattern of hours in the last 6 months, except for those employed by a small business, will either receive an offer of full-time or part-time employment or a notice with reasons why they have not received an offer.
Employees who work for a small business employer will be able to request conversion after 12 months of employment, if they satisfy the same pattern of hours requirement.
Employers will only be able to refuse a request or not offer conversion to eligible employees if they have reasonable grounds based on facts that are known or reasonably foreseeable.
The Bill also provides a statutory offset rule that requires a court to reduce amounts for any entitlements found owing to the employee, by an amount equal to any identifiable casual loading already paid to the employee. This will ensure that where an employee is found by a court not to be a casual employee under the statutory definition, employers will not have to pay the same entitlements twice.
On 26 May 2020, the Prime Minister the Hon. Scott Morrison MP announced the Australian Government's JobMaker plan in an address at the National Press Club. Part of this plan was to explore reforms to the industrial relations system to regrow jobs lost in the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of this plan, the Attorney-General chaired five working groups made up of employee, employer and industry representatives. The working groups covered the following areas where the Government considered there were known problems in the industrial relations system and where there was the greatest opportunity for job creation:
- Casuals and fixed term employees
- Award Simplification
- Enterprise Agreements
- Greenfields Agreements
- Compliance and Enforcement
The earlier discussion paper process, which was paused in March due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, has been a valuable mechanism for receiving stakeholder input on industrial relations policy issues.
The following consultations have been paused until the working group process is fully completed.
- Cooperative Workplaces – How can Australia capture productivity improvements from more harmonious workplace relations
- Review of the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016
- Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: further strengthening the civil compliance and enforcement framework
Public submissions for the IR reform working group process have now closed. The approach to any future consultation on industrial relations policy issues will be advised once the working group process has concluded.
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