Sometimes it seems like the changes to employment-related legislation are never-ending, and further changes over the December 2023 / January 2024 period have served to only validate that perception.
As a support to our clients and contacts, we’ve included below a summary of the recent key changes. As usual, be sure to reach out to us if you need further information or support.
As most readers will be aware, employers have for some years had, and continue to have, an obligation to pay superannuation contributions for eligible employees under superannuation guarantee laws (currently 11%, increasing to 11.5% from July 2024).
From 1st January 2024 however, superannuation is ALSO an entitlement under the National Employment Standards (NES). This change allows most (though not all) employees covered by the NES to take court action under the Fair Work Act to recover unpaid superannuation.
If an employer complies with the superannuation guarantee legislation they will also meet their obligations under the NES.
From 30 December 2023, new rules apply for employee authorised deductions from pay that are:
- either one-off or recurring
- for specific amounts or for amounts that change from time to time.
Employee permissions for deductions from their pay need to be in writing, and there are further provisions about when deductions are allowed and how they need to be recorded.
Click HERE for additional information regarding employee authorised deductions.
The following changes are the most recent to emerge out of the federal government’s “Closing the Loopholes” initiative. Further changes are already set to come into play later this year/early 2025, and yet more are likely following further deliberations in Parliament (keep an eye out for updates).
As a result of these changes, employees, unions and host employers, from 15th December 2023, can apply to the Fair Work Commission for new types of orders relating to labour hire employees (that is, workers engaged by an agency who then hire them out to a “host employer”).
Where a relevant order is made under the new provisions (which cannot come into effect before 1st November 2024), a labour hire employer must pay their employees supplied to a host employer at least the same rate they’d receive under the host employer’s:
- enterprise agreement, or
- other kind of workplace instrument that provides for terms and conditions of employment.
Additional protections were introduced in December 2023 that make it unlawful for an employer to take adverse action (including dismissal) against an employee because the employee is (or has been) experiencing family and domestic violence. Importantly, this higher level of protection also applies to potential future employees.
Generally speaking (though not always!), small business employers (those with fewer than 15 staff) are exempt from paying redundancy pay to employees who are made redundant.
These latest changes, effective 15th December 2023, are designed to ensure that remaining employees of larger employers that may be downsizing from more than 15 staff (for reasons of insolvency, bankruptcy or liquidation, for example), retain access to redundancy payments even if by the time of their termination the business has fewer than 15 employees.
Changes from 15th December 2023 entitle workplace delegates to:
- represent the industrial interests of members and potential members of the employee organisation
- engage in reasonable communication with members and potential members about their industrial interests
- have reasonable access to the workplace and its facilities in order to represent those industrial interests, and
- in the case of delegates employed in businesses with 15 or more staff, have reasonable access to paid time during normal working hours for workplace delegate training.
Further changes introduce potential penalties for employers who:
- unreasonably fail or refuse to deal with the workplace delegate
- knowingly or recklessly make a false or misleading representation to the workplace delegate, or
- unreasonably hinder, obstruct or prevent the exercise of the rights of the workplace delegate.
The changes also make it easier for officials to gain access to a workplace in order to complete their duties.
Several other changes have been made relating to:
- the Fair Work Commission’s process in dealing with industrial disputes between employees and employers, and
- very specific aspects of work health and safety and workers’ compensation arrangements.
Details are still being worked through, and changes will not commence prior to 1st January 2025, but employers should be aware that the intentional underpayment of wages by an employer will become a criminal offence. Penalties for companies will include fines of up to $7.825 million and, for individuals, fines of up to $1.565 million and up to 10 years imprisonment.
Further details relating to the “Closing the Loopholes” changes above are available HERE, or of course reach out to us directly if you need further support. Be sure to also keep an eye on our socials and/or email updates for further news.
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Note that this article includes general information and is a summary only. It is not formal or legal advice. Information is we believe current and accurate at the time of publication – 01/02/2024.