Briefing for AHA(WA) Members on the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022
The AHA(WA) has been engaged in a substantial amount of work in recent times on the new Federal Government’s Industrial Relations agenda.
Following the Jobs and Skills Summit in September, the Albanese Government introduced the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill (Bill), which proposes some of the most comprehensive changes to Australia’s workplace relations system in decades. The Bill proposes significant changes, including but not limited to:
• How bargaining is initiated;
• Multi-employer bargaining;
• Sunsetting of ‘zombie agreements’;
• Changes to the ‘Better Off Overall Test’ (BOOT); and
• Stamping out sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Bill has been subject to heavy criticism from all sides of the industrial relations divide. A majority of criticism turns on the Government’s push to fast track the Bill and lack of consultation.
The AHA(WA) and AHA National Office has closely scrutinised the proposed new laws and provided substantial input and commentary through official channels including a Senate Committee.
The Bill is 243 pages and covers 23 key topics. In respect of the timeline:
- The Bill was tabled in Parliament and the Senate referred the Bill to the ‘Education and Employment Legislation Committee (Committee) for inquiry on 27 October 2022.
- The Bill passed through the House of Representatives on 10 November.
- Submissions to the Senate inquiry closed 14 days later, on 11 November 2022.
- The AHA National Office appeared before the Committee on 15 November 2022.
- The final report and recommendations were tabled by the Committee and presented to the Senate on 22 November 2022.
One of the proposals by key Senators is to split the Bill (particularly in respect of the more contentious aspects) to allow a more fulsome review outside of the current time constraints. It remains to be seen whether this will actually happen, or whether the Bill will indeed pass through the Senate over the coming days.
The AHA National Office provided written submissions to, and appeared in person before the Committee, highlighting the following key areas of concern:
1. Multi-employer bargaining: the requirement of an employer to be party to an enterprise agreement with multiple employers should:
- a) be with the consent of each employer involved only; or in the alternative, small and medium sized businesses (up to 100 employees) be exempt;
- b) be subject to a refined “common interest test”, to minimise as far as is practicable current ambiguity in its application; and
2. Flexible work arrangement requests: we were of the view there were unnecessary, however should these proceed:
- a) The newly imposed obligations on employers to attempt to reach genuine agreement with an employee on a flexible work request made by them should also be imposed on the relevant employee; and
- b) Any orders that the Fair Work Commission will have to grant a request or otherwise specify how an employer is to conduct its operational arrangements must be subject to a review process, and any orders granted should automatically lapse if the employee’s underlining need for the flexibility ceases.
3. Sunsetting of “Zombie” agreements: we were of the view the proposed legislation presents as a streamlined and resource saving alternative to their individual termination, however the proposed powers to extend their operation should not be used to frustrate any new bargaining processes.
4. Splitting of the Bill: Given the significance of the Bill’s proposed reform, the AHA supported the splitting of the Bill (particularly those Parts relating to multi-employer bargaining), to allow the more contentious and complex aspects to be subject to a more fulsome review outside of the time constraints.
We will continue to keep our Members updated as this significant piece of legislation tracks through Parliament. If the Bill does indeed pass in its current form (or similar), it is anticipated that the changes will likely come into effect some time in the New Year. We will look to provide you with further bulletins, facts sheets and an online webinar outlining the changes and the impact on you and your venue.