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Important COVID-19 information
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Industrial relations reform

On 9 December 2020, the Australian Government introduced its Industrial Relations Reforms - Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery package and introduced the Fair Work Act (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill into the Australian Parliament.

This package of reforms will give businesses the confidence to get back to growing and creating jobs, as well as the tools to help employers and employees to work together in a post-COVID Australia. Specific reforms offer practical measures across five key areas of Australia’s industrial relations system:

  • Award simplification cutting red tape, improving flexibility and job opportunities in 12 Awards covering the retail and hospitality sectors, which were hardest-hit by the pandemic and saw the heaviest job losses.
  • Greenfields agreements  – boosting investment in job-creating mega-projects by making them more attractive to global investors through new eight-year, life-of-construction agreements complete with appropriate safeguards.
  • Casual employment  – ending the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the legal status of casuals, while providing a clearer pathway for those working regular shifts to convert to permanent roles after 12 months if they wish to do so.
  • Enterprise agreements reversing the decline in agreement making by simplifying the BOOT test and setting a 21-day approval deadline to help drive productivity gains and real wage growth.
  • Compliance and enforcement reducing the risk of wage underpayments by helping employers to comply with their obligations and provide mechanisms to rectify underpayments where they do occur; and protecting employee entitlements by introducing a new criminal penalty for the minority of employers who deliberately underpay their employees.

These are important reforms that will give businesses the confidence to create jobs, and the tools to help employers and employees work together in a post-COVID Australia. These were developed after extensive consultation with employer and employee groups to find innovative solutions that will support struggling businesses, as well as protect and enhance the rights of workers.

Industrial Relations Reforms – supporting Australia’s jobs and economic recovery - fact sheets

To find out more about the proposed reforms read our IR reform factsheets.

  • Industrial Relations Reform – Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery
  • Greenfields agreements – Overview
  • Casual employment – Overview
  • Modern awards – Overview
  • Compliance and enforcement – Overview
  • Enterprise agreements – Overview

Background

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.

Since June, the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, has led the IR reform working group process bringing together employers, industry groups, employee representatives and government to chart a practical reform agenda. He has been assisted by Tim Marney, former West Australian Under Treasurer, as Deputy Chair. Five working groups were established to discuss potential solutions to key issues within Australia's industrial relations system. While the formal working group meetings concluded on 18 September 2020, the government is continuing discussions to settle a package of reforms.

Working groups

  1. The Casuals and fixed term employees working group explored opportunities to increase clarity and certainty about casual employment arrangements.
  2. The Award Simplification working group explored ways to simplify awards in industries particularly distressed by COVID-19.
  3. The Enterprise Agreements working group explored ways to ensure a fair, transparent and simple agreement making system.
  4. The Compliance and Enforcement working group explored ways to further enhance the effectiveness of the workplace relations compliance framework, including addressing wage underpayments.
  5. The Greenfields Agreements working group focused on simplifying negotiation of agreements for new enterprises, activities, projects or undertakings.

Consultations

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.

For the complete list of industrial relations consultations, visit consultations and publications.

Contact details

Send correspondence to the IR Secretariat at irsecretariat@ag.gov.au.