The Albanese Government has introduced legislation that the Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has stated will help with “closing the loopholes that some businesses use to undercut workers’ pay, security and flexibility.”
This article summarises the key elements of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Bill 2023.
Unpaid parental leave
These amendments increase the flexible unpaid parental leave entitlement from 30 days over 24 months to 100 days (under section 72A of the Fair Work Act). These changes are designed to align with the changes to the Paid Parental Leave Act (click here to view a related article).
Parents may use this improved flexibility for multiple reasons, such as facilitating a gradual return to work, sharing caring responsibilities, or reducing their regular days of work for a period of time. The ease in sharing caring responsibilities is further improved by allowing all employees to take up to 12 months unpaid parental leave and request a further 12 months of unpaid parental leave, regardless of how much leave their partner takes. Therefore, each parent now potentially gets a total of 24 months of unpaid parental leave.
The amendments also allow employees to commence their leave at any time in the 24 months following the birth or placement of their child, and allow employees to take flexible unpaid parental leave before, as well as after, a period of continuous unpaid parental leave.
Employee authorised deductions
These changes involve expanding the circumstances in which employees can authorise employers to make valid deductions from their wages.
Currently, under section 324 of the Fair Work Act, any written agreement authorising a payroll deduction must specify the amount of the deduction. This requires a new deduction agreement every time the amount of an authorised deduction varies.
Now with the changes, employees will be able to authorise employers to make regular deductions for amounts that vary from time to time. These deductions must however not be for the direct or indirect benefit of the employer.
The amendments also include the entitlement to superannuation contributions being inserted under the National Employment Standards.
They will require employers to make superannuation contributions for the benefit of an employee, to avoid liability to pay the Superannuation Guarantee Charge in relation to that employee. This means the rules surrounding paying superannuation will remain the same as specified under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (Cth).
The reason for this inclusion is now employers would be liable to face civil penalties under the Fair Work Act for underpaying superannuation. This means that the Fair Work Ombudsman would be able to enforce and recover unpaid superannuation.
There are a number of other smaller miscellaneous changes. These include:
- The clarification that the applicable enterprise agreement no longer operates when a workplace determination takes effect.
- Clearly articulating that temporary migrant workers are entitled to workplace protections under the Fair Work Act.
- Changing the way that long service leave is calculated in the black coal mining industry for casual mineworkers.
Workplace law can be difficult to keep up with and can get very complex, increasing the risk of employment non-compliance.
Clients of ER Strategies can give us a call on 1300 55 66 37 if you have any questions regarding these changes. For non-clients, give us a call on the same number or click the button below. We’d love to see how we can help you and your business.