On 7 September 2023, the Senate voted to approve Part One of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023, following a deal with the Greens and the crossbench to divide the Bill in two in order to pass certain measures. Part Two of the Bill will be considered early in the new year.
Sealed deals in Part One of the Closing Loopholes Bill
Part One of the Bill outlines the introduction of new laws, including those which:
- prevent companies from underpaying labour hire workers who are performing the same job as employees;
- criminalises intentional wage theft and superannuation theft;
- prevents large businesses which are downsizing due to insolvency from avoiding redundancy payments by claiming the small business redundancy exemption;
- provides first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) better access to worker’s compensation;
- expands the functions of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, to bring silica in line with asbestos;
- prevents employers from taking adverse action against family and domestic violence employee victims;
- introduces the offence of industrial manslaughter under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth).
These new laws are anticipated to come into effect gradually over the next year.
Remaining amendments to be debated in the new year
The remaining more complex and controversial measures have been left to be considered in the new year, including amendments relating to:
- the definition of casual employment;
- proposed changes to casual conversion;
- the setting of minimum standards for ‘employee-like’ workers, including in the gig economy and road transport industry workers;
- intractable bargaining workplace declarations;
- and more.
Employers with business models involving the above measures should closely monitor the outcomes to Part Two of the Bill, and ensure they are readily equipped for how these changes to the industrial landscape may affect their business.
In the meantime, we also remind employers of the following changes to workplace laws that have recently come into effect:
- From 6 December 2023, fixed term contracts are subject to a maximum contract period of 2 years (inclusive of any renewals and extensions). Exceptions may apply if certain conditions are met;
- Also from 6 December 2023, the Fair Work Commission has the power to deal with a dispute about a fixed term contract, including by mediation, conciliation or consent arbitration;
- As of 7 December 2023, certain agreements made before 2010 that were still in operation (also known as ‘zombie agreements’) have been terminated (sunsetted) unless the agreement was extended by application to the Fair Work Commission.
If you have any questions relating to how the above changes affect you and your business, please feel free to contact our Workplace Team.
For further information please contact Danny Clifford, Director of Employment and Workplace Law.