The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill) 2022 was passed through both houses of parliament in December of 2022. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Tony Burke said the amendment would end “a decade of inaction” on wage growth and address gaps within Australia’s industrial relations law.
Currently employees seeking to recover unpaid wages beyond $20,000 are required to make these claims through the courts. The bill will make it easier to recover unpaid wages by increasing the current cap on such claims from $20,000 to $100,000, allowing employees to utilise the Fair Work Commission (FWC) instead up to this amount.
The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill also provides the FWC with new powers to resolve intractable bargaining disputes in situations where employees and employers can not come to an agreement. Australia's existing enterprise bargaining system required both employees and employers to agree. Mr. Burke said this would “provide a strong incentive for good faith negotiations" and "allow for quicker resolution of intractable disputes, and significantly reduce the prospect of lengthy industrial action”.
As well as amending the protocols surrounding employer bargaining, industrial action, and termination processes, the bill also serves to abolish two existing institutions: the Australian Buildling and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission, transferring their responsibilities into the Fair Work Ombudsman. Furthermore the bill will serve to abolish agreements, known as Zombie Agreements, founded under the Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009.
Purposes of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill
The purposes of the amendment are to:
promote wage growth by:
revising the enterprise agreement (EA) bargaining, approval, termination and dispute resolution processes, including compulsory arbitration by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for intractable EA bargaining disputes
bargaining, approval and terminations processes
revising and renaming existing multi-business EA processes and
revising the existing ‘single interest employer authorisation’ regime to allow multiple employers to bargain together in wider circumstances and
promote flexible working arrangements (FWAs) by:
allowing employees to enforce the existing right to request FWAs
increasing obligations on employers to genuinely consider, negotiate and respond to requests for FWAs, including applying penalties for refusing FWA requests on unreasonable grounds and
empowering the FWC to deal with disputes about requests for FWAs
improve job security by prohibiting certain fixed-term contracts, such as those which span for a period of two years or more or which can be expanded more than once.
revise when and how protected industrial action (PIA) can be taken, including:
changes to timeframes for the taking of PIA (designed to avoid disruptions to business, whilst also allowing businesses to arrange contingencies)
allowing PIA to be taken in relation to some, but not all, multi-business EAs and
changes to de-escalate disputes by requiring the FWC to direct parties to a dispute to attend mandatory conciliation conferences and prior to the closure of voting on a PIA ballot.
abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and transfer all related regulatory responsibilities and existing ABCC matters to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO)
abolish the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) and transfer regulatory responsibilities and existing matters to the General Manager (GM) of the Fair Work Commission (FWC), as well as providing additional enforcement options
promote gender equity and strengthening the legal framework in respect of sexual harassment and anti-discrimination protections
Key Dates of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill
7th of January: From this date, advertisements for jobs can no longer include pay rates which would breach the Fair Work Act or other Fair Work instruments, such as awards or enterprise agreements.
6th of February: The ABCC is abolished.
6th of June: Multi-Employer Bargaining access increased via the availability of single-interest, supported and cooperative bargaining.
1st of July: The National Construction Industry Forum is to be created.