On 29 March 2023, the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Bill 2023 (the Bill) was introduced into Parliament by the Federal Government. It seeks to promote job security and flexibility, protect worker entitlements and address gender inequality. A summary of the key changes proposed by the Bill is set out below.
If the Bill is passed, employers will need to amend their employment contracts and policies to the extent necessary to ensure that their deductions and parental leave provisions are consistent with these new provisions.
The Bill proposes a number of changes to the unpaid parental leave provisions in the National Employment Standards (NES) under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the FW Act) to provide more flexible access to unpaid parental leave, including:
The Bill proposes to insert a right to superannuation into the NES. In particular, the NES will require an employer to make contributions to a superannuation fund for the benefit of an employee so as to avoid liability to pay the superannuation guarantee charge under superannuation legislation. A failure to do so will amount to a contravention of the NES, which could result in the imposition of civil penalties and other court orders such as compensation. This amendment will increase the number of employees who are able to enforce their right to superannuation as it provides employees with a legislative workplace right to superannuation.
The Bill expands the circumstances in which employees can authorise employers to make valid deductions from payments due to them. The FW Act currently allows an employer to make deductions from amounts payable to employees in particular circumstances, including where the deduction is authorised in writing by the employee and is principally for the employee’s benefit. Currently, the FW Act provides that where an employee authorises such a deduction, the employee’s authorisation must specify the amount of the deduction. This means that a new authorisation is required in the event that there is any variation to the amount of an authorised deduction.
These changes seek to ensure greater protection for employees in respect of these authorised deductions and less administration.
In addition, employers should be aware that the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Act 2023 (WGEA Bill) was passed by Federal Parliament this week. The WGEA Bill requires employers with over 100 employees to:
report their gender pay gaps to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), who will publish this aggregate information for each employer on its website from 2024; and
The WGEA Bill also clarifies the requirement for employers to report on sexual harassment to WGEA.
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