Clifford Gouldson Lawyers

New Financial Year - New Workplace Changes

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With the start of the new financial year a number of important changes to Australia’s industrial laws have come into effect:

Changes to WorkCover

The definition of ‘worker’ for the purposes of workers’ compensation has changed and as a result, some individuals will no longer be covered by Queensland’s WorkCover system. 

The new test that applies for determining who is a ‘worker’ for the purposes of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) will now be identical to the test applied for determining whether a person is subject to PAYG withholding under taxation laws. 

The new definition of a ‘worker’ is a person who:

works under a contract, and in relation to the work, is an employee for the purpose of assessment for PAYG withholding under the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cwlth) schedule 1, part 2-5. 

The ATO has guidelines on its website which can be used to assist employers and principals of contractors to determine both whether a person is a worker for the purposes of WorkCover and for the purposes of whether a person is a worker for PAYG withholding.  

The changes to the definition of ‘worker’ will not affect the majority of those currently covered by the WorkCover system.  However, the impact of the changes might mean that some contractors in the construction and transport industries will no longer be covered, particularly where the contractor provides their own vehicle to:

  • transport goods in the transport industry (such as drivers of general transport trucks, cement trucks or tow trucks); or
  • perform work in the construction industry (such as operators of bobcats and backhoes). 

Changes to superannuation

Employers ought to be aware that the superannuation guarantee contribution amount has increased from 9% to 9.25%.   

This increase marks the start of a gradual incremental increase of the superannuation guarantee contribution over the coming years, which will eventually increase to a total of 12% in 2019-20.   

Note however that the Federal Coalition has flagged that, if it wins government in the approaching election, it will likely delay any further increases by an additional two years.

Changes to the minimum wage and high income threshold

The Fair Work Commission's minimum wage panel has increased all existing federal modern award rates by 2.6%.  As a result of the increase, the national minimum wage has increased to $622.20 per week.    

In addition, under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) the high income threshold has increased to $129,300.00 and the maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded in an unfair dismissal application has increased to $64,650.00.   

Update on the new bullying jurisdiction

In April’s CG Law Legal Alert (First and Second Wave of Changes to the Fair Work System) we commented on the Fair Work Commission’s proposed new bullying jurisdiction. 

The amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) creating the new jurisdiction passed both houses of federal parliament recently, however the new bullying jurisdiction will not commence operation until 1 January 2014.   

This means that from 2014, employees who believe they are being bullied at work will be able to apply to the Commission for an order to stop it.  A bullying application will be ‘fast tracked’ because the Commission will be required to consider the matter within 14 days of an application being lodged by an employee. 

What employers should do

Employers should be aware of the changes to the definition of ‘worker’ and seek advice to determine whether the changes exclude a person that the employer is currently paying WorkCover premiums for.  Employers ought to also ensure that they are paying the appropriate increased minimum rates of pay and superannuation.

Finally, employers should be prepared for the risk imposed by the Commission’s incoming bullying jurisdiction by ensuring that employees are aware of the employer’s expectations with respect to bullying behaviour.  Employers should review their workplace policies and procedures with an aim of preventing bullying behaviour before it occurs in the workplace. 

For further information on this topic or specific workplace law advice please contact a member of our Workplace Team.

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