Further sweeping reforms coming to Australia’s employment landscape?
Following hot on the heels of the significant changes effected by the Better Pay, Secure Jobs amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), a Senate Committee’s recommendations would fundamentally change the way we work and care for others.
On 10 March 2023, the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care (Committee) released its final report (the Report), after 11 days of hearings across Australia, as well as 125 published submissions.
The Report makes 33 separate recommendations across a wide range of issues, from universal quality childcare and 12 months paid parental leave, to a ‘right to care’ and a four-day work week.
If implemented, the recommendations will involve the greatest changes to the Australian employment landscape since the 8-hour day and the introduction of paid annual leave.
In summary, the most significant recommendations relating to employment are as follows:
|Recommendation 16||Australian Government consider ways to fund and implement 52 weeks of paid parental leave.|
|Recommendation 17||Amend and broaden the definition of ‘immediate family’ in the Fair Work Act for the purposes of an employee accessing carer’s leave, including (amongst others) any person significant to the employee to whom the employee provides regular care.|
|Recommendation 18||Separate carer’s leave entitlements under Fair Work Act (currently, personal leave and carer’s leave entitlements come from the same ‘bucket’)|
|Recommendation 19||Review access to and compensation for paid sick and annual leave for casual and part-time workers.|
|Recommendation 21||Employers to give advance notice of rosters and changes (except in exceptional circumstances) and genuinely consider employee views about the impact of changes.|
|Recommendation 22||Review of the maximum 38‑hour working week.|
|Recommendation 23||An enforceable ‘right to disconnect’ under the National Employment Standards, giving all workers a right to disconnect once their contracted working hours have finished.|
|Recommendation 25||A new statutory definition of casual employment; restrict the use of low base hour contracts; ensure permanent part-time employees have access to regular hours of work; and address employers’ use of legal loopholes.|
|Recommendation 26||Equal pay for equal work for gig workers and they should have the same rights regarding predictability of work, liveable income, health and safety standards, and paid leave.|
|Recommendation 27||The Fair Work Commission undertake a review of standard working hours with a view to reducing the standard working week.|
|Recommendation 28||Undertake a four‑day week trial based on the 100:80:100 model, whereby employees retain 100 per cent of the salary while reducing their hours to 80 per cent while maintaining 100 per cent productivity.|
|Recommendation 31||A right to superannuation as a National Employment Standard.|
Implementation of any of these recommendations would have significant consequences for Australian employers and employees. Based on the Federal Government’s demonstrated appetite for industrial relations reform, we expect it will give serious consideration to implementing at least some of these recommendations.
Employers don’t need to do anything at this stage but should closely watch this space, to ensure they are not caught short if changes become likely.
Employers who are considering developing policies for measures such as shorter work weeks, a right to disconnect, paid sick/carer’s leave for casuals or extended paid parental leave can contact our Workplace law team for a no-obligation consultation about their options.