Final WALGA ER Alert for 2022

Published on:
Thursday, 22 December, 2022
Employee Relations

Federal Government industrial relations reform

The much reported Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 (the Bill) passed both Houses of Parliament on 2 December 2022. The resulting Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022 (the Secure Jobs Act) received royal assent on 6 December 2022.
The Secure Jobs Act amends workplace relations laws relating to bargaining, job security, gender equity, compliance and enforcement, workplace conditions and protections and workplace relations institutions. A summary published by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations can be found here – Fact Sheets are available by following the relevant topic links. A summary published by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) can be found here.
The reforms are relevant to national system employers, including all Northern Territory Local Governments and the Shires of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Island.
WA Local Governments in, or transitioning to, the State industrial relations (IR) system may be impacted by

  • the expansion of protected attributes, for example it may be unlawful to terminate an employee’s employment because of these attributes
  • provisions that prohibit sexual harassment in connection with work. 

In addition, Local Governments operating in the State IR system may need to consider the general reforms in light of the operation of any relevant transitional industrial agreement.   
Key amendments made by the Secure Jobs Act include:

  • Limitations on fixed term contracts (this will also apply to maximum term contracts).  These changes will come into effect on 7 December 2023 or earlier if fixed by proclamation. Under the new provisions:
    • A term of a fixed term contract of employment cannot exceed 2 years, though there are some exceptions set out under s.333F of the Secure Jobs Act
    • The Fair Work Ombudsman must prepare a Fixed Term Contract Information Statement, which must be given to certain employees.
  • From 7 June 2023, pay secrecy terms inconsistent with the new laws cannot be included in employment contracts or other written agreements entered into on or after 7 December 2022. Under the new laws:
    • Employees will have a workplace right to disclose or not disclose their remuneration and related information
    • It may be unlawful for an employer to enter into future contracts that contain pay secrecy clauses.
  • Provisions prohibiting sexual harassment in connection with work commence from 6 March 2023.
  • Amendments to the flexible working arrangements in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) commence from 6 June 2023, and will:
    • Require employers to:
      • before refusing a flexible working arrangement request, discuss the request with the employee and genuinely try to reach an agreement to accommodate the employee’s circumstances (the Local Government Industry Award 2020 already contains similar requirements)
      • set out, in detail, the exact business grounds why the request was refused.
    • Empower the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to determine whether the business grounds relied on by an employer to refuse a request were reasonable.
  • Provisions that expand the list of protected attributes came into effect on 7 December 2022. The protected attributes now include breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status.
  • Most of the changes to bargaining of enterprise agreements will commence from 6 June 2023 or earlier if fixed by proclamation. Amendments include:
    • Employee bargaining representatives can initiate bargaining by providing notice
    • Simplifying approvals and removing some pre-approval steps, including the 7-day access period before the vote
    • The FWC will be afforded more flexibility when assessing the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) and allow it to take into account the common views of the bargaining representatives and actual work patterns used by an enterprise
    • Multi-employer (or industry level) bargaining.

The FWC has prepared a useful publication showing the key dates for the changes, which is available here.  

The FWO has published recently updated information on:

Respect at work changes commenced

On 12 December 2022 the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 (the Respect at Work Act) received royal assent.
The Respect at Work Act:

  • Amends the Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Imposes a positive duty on employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace
  • Gives the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) new functions to assess and enforce compliance with the new requirements – including the capacity to issue compliance notice.

You can find resources to assist with creating safe, inclusive and respectful workplaces on the new Respect@Work Government website.

We also note the AHRC has released results of their fifth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

2023 Public holiday dates for WA and NT

The 2023 public holiday information sheets prepared for WALGA ER subscribers can be downloaded below.
WA 2023 Public Holiday Information Sheet

NT 2023 Public Holiday Information Sheet
The sheets contain information on public holidays that affect Local Governments in WA and the NT.

These information sheets can also be accessed from the WALGA website. Please note you will need to login to the subscriber section of the website. If you don’t have a login please click here to create an account and follow the instructions on how to sign up.

WALGA office closure

Due to WALGA’s offices closure, WALGA Employee Relations will be providing advice up to 12 noon on Friday, 23 December 2022.  WALGA offices will re-open on Tuesday, 3 January 2023.
If you are an ER subscriber you can utilise the State IR Transition Resources or the general  ER Resources to address your queries, noting you will need to be logged in to view the resources.

If you have any questions about this alert, please email WALGA Employee Relations or call 1300 366 956.

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