David Sofrà, Adrian Wong, Paul Hum & Katherine Southwell highlight key aspects of the proposed changes with Fair Work Bill introduced in Parliament.
The Federal Government has introduced legislation into Parliament which proposes to amend the Fair Work Act 2009.
The introduction of the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 (Bill) in the House of Representatives on 9 December is the result of the Government’s industrial relations working groups, which considered priority areas for reform.
The Government has described the Bill as a “fair and balanced response” to issues with the current system, that is aimed at “breaking down the barriers to job growth so that we can get Australians back to work”, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Government may need to compromise on parts of the Bill to secure its passage in the Senate, we highlight below some key aspects of the proposed changes.
In a direct response to the Full Federal Court’s decision in WorkPac v Rossato, the Bill proposes several amendments to provide greater certainty for employers, as detailed below.
For employers and employees under 12 identified modern awards (which apply to those industries significantly impacted by COVID-19, including the retail, hospitality, fast food and related sectors), the Bill will introduce:
Separate to the Bill, the Government has requested the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to consider including ‘loaded rates’ (all up rates which incorporate penalty rates and other benefits) and simplified classification structures into four key modern awards (retail, restaurants, hospitality and clubs), which require additional flexibility to support the recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. The FWC will undertake this process under the existing award review framework in the FW Act.
The Bill will allow Greenfields agreements for defined ‘major projects’ (where the costs of the project are at least $500 million, or as otherwise declared by the Minister) to have a nominal life of up eight years from the date of approval. For these long-term agreements, there will also be a new requirement to include annual increases until the nominal expiry date of the agreement.
The Bill will be referred to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee, which will provide its inquiry report by 12 March 2021. The Government will likely seek for the Bill to be passed by the Senate by 18 March 2021.
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