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Federal workplace relations changes up for debate in 2021

Recently, the federal government introduced the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 to the House of Representatives with expectedly mixed reactions from employer and union groups.

The bill proposes significant changes in a number of key areas:

  • The definition of a casual employee in an attempt to dispel confusion about what constitutes a casual employee and what their entitlements are (recent Federal Court decisions have extended rights of permanent employees to some who had been designated as casual and paid a casual loading by their employer)
  • A legislated obligation on an employer to offer conversion of a casual employee with
    12 months service qualified by an exemption in certain circumstances
  • Simplification of the processes and tests required to make an enterprise agreement
  • Variations to award provisions to allow part-time employees in certain industries (predominantly retail and hospitality awards) to agree to work additional hours at ordinary rates of pay
  • Provisions enabling employers to give flexible work directions under those same awards in relation to the work to be performed and the location at which work is to be performed including at home
  • Extension of the operating period for greenfields agreements for new projects to up to 8 years (currently 4 years)
  • A new criminal offence for wage theft with penalties of up to 4 years imprisonment and $1.1 million for an individual and $5.55 million for a corporation
  • The ability for Courts to refer small claims to the Fair Work Commission for conciliation and arbitration
  • Outlawing the advertisement of jobs with wages below the level of the federal minimum wage

The ACTU and the federal opposition have already signaled their opposition to some of the proposed changes and a lively debate possibly supported by a union campaign can be expected in the New Year.

More to come in 2021…..

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