Several changes have been made to workplace laws and will continue to take effect over the coming months.
A change in workplace laws was introduced on 6 June 2023 which means employers have new obligations before they can refuse a flexible work arrangement. They must:
- Make a genuine effort to find alternative arrangements to accommodate the employee’s circumstances
- consider the consequences of refusal for the employee
- provide a written response that includes an explanation of:
- the reasonable business grounds for refusal
- other changes the employer is willing to make to accommodate the employee’s circumstances
- information about referring a dispute to the Fair Work Commission.
When an employee makes a request to extend their unpaid parental leave, you can:
- agree to the request
- discuss and agree to a different extension period with the employee.
More employers will be exposed to multi-employer bargaining through the introduction of single-interest agreement bargaining.
- Small business owners with less than 20 employees cannot be compelled to bargain under the single interest stream.
- For those with 20-49 employees, the responsibility will be on the bargaining representative (for example a union) to demonstrate that business operations and activities are reasonably comparable with those of other employers (that are covered by the agreement).
- For businesses with 50 or more employees, it is presumed that business operations and activities are reasonably comparable with those of other employers (that are covered by the agreement).
- If the bargaining representative can demonstrate the above, these employees are then to be included under the single-interest agreement. The responsibility is then on the employer to prove otherwise.
For more information about these changes view the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Supporting you to bargain and make agreements webpage.
You can also view a secure jobs better pay small business factsheet, as well as a supplementary small business closing loopholes factsheet about these changes on the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations website.
All full-time, part-time, and casual employees can access 10 days of paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave as of 1 August 2023.
The full 10 day leave entitlement is available immediately - it does not need to be accumulated like annual leave. It also doesn’t increase over subsequent years if it is not used and will reset to 10 days each year on the employee’s work anniversary.
- Full-time and part-time employees will be paid their full rate of pay for the hours they would have worked. Casual workers get the full rate of pay for the hours they were rostered to work.
- Pay slips must not mention Family and Domestic Violence Leave, record leave balances, or the amount of leave taken.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, employees can take paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave if they need to do something to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence. This could include:
- making arrangements for their safety, or the safety of a close relative (including relocation)
- attending court hearings or accessing police services
- attending counselling, or appointments with medical, financial, or legal professionals.
If employees need to take leave, they must let their employer know as soon as possible. In some cases, this could be after the leave starts.
An employer can ask for evidence to show the employee took the leave to deal with family and domestic violence. Employers can ask employees to provide this evidence for one day or less than one day off work.
The types of evidence can include:
- documents issued by a police service.
- documents issued by a court.
- family violence support service documents
- a statutory declaration.
Introduction of this workplace change was staggered on 1 February and 1 August 2023 (depending on number of employees).
A paid family and domestic violence leave for small business employers webpage is available on the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations for more information.
All organisations and businesses in Australia, regardless of size or resources, must stop the following behaviour from occurring:
- discrimination on the grounds of sex in a work context
- sexual harassment in connection with work
- sex-based harassment in connection with work
- conduct creating a workplace environment that is hostile on the grounds of sex
- related acts of victimisation.
This new positive duty was introduced in December 2022. It imposes a legal obligation on organisations and businesses to take action to prevent this behaviour, rather than only responding after it occurs.
From December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission will have new powers to investigate and enforce compliance with the positive duty.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has developed practical guidance materials to help businesses understand their responsibilities and the changes they may need to make. There is also a downloadable guide for small businesses.
For more information about bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination laws and how to prevent these behaviours in your workplace, view the Fair Work Ombudsman's webpage.
There are new rules for any small business who hires employees on fixed term contracts from 6 December 2023.
A fixed term contract finishes at the end of a specific period. This includes contracts where the employee is employed for a specific period.
All businesses using fixed term contracts to hire employees after 6 December must:
- give employees a Fixed Term Contract Information Statement (FTCIS) – from 6 December 2023. This must be provided to employees before they start employment or as soon as possible after. More information about the Fixed Term Contract conditions is available on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website
- provide new fixed term contract employees with the Fair Work Information Statement. This document provides information about minimum workplace rights and entitlements
- follow the following three rules:
- time limits - a fixed term contract can’t be for more than two years. This includes extensions and renewals.
- renewal limits - a fixed term contract can’t have an option to extend or renew the contract so that the total employment period (including any additional extensions or renewal periods) are longer than two years. The contract can only be extended or renewed once.
- consecutive contract limits - an employer can’t employ someone on a new fixed term contract if:
- the work responsibilities are generally the same as a previous fixed term contract
- there is no large break in work between the previous and new contract
- if any of the following apply:
- the total period of employment for the previous contract and the new fixed term contract is more than two years
- the new fixed term contract can be renewed or extended
- the previous fixed term contract was extended
- there was an initial fixed term contract in place (before the previous contract) that:
- was for generally the same work
- the employment continued between the initial contract and the previous one.
These fixed term contract rules will not apply to:
- specialised skills
- training arrangements
- essential work
- emergency circumstances or temporary absences
- high-income employees
- government-funded contracts
- governance positions
- award provisions.
There may be other exceptions. Visit the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website for more information.
All registered contracts made before 2010 (also known as ‘zombie agreements’) will automatically expire on 7 December 2023 unless an application is made to the Fair Work Commission to extend the period for the contract.
Small businesses and their employees can visit the Fair Work Commission website to apply for an extension before 7 December 2023.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) will have more information on their website about the fixed term contract changes closer to 6 December 2023. To stay up to date, you can also subscribe to the FWO’s email updates.
Changes have been made to the Fair Work Act as part of the Australian Government’s new Closing Loopholes laws.
Some changes start from 15 December 2023, and others start later.
The changes include:
Starting now (December 15th, 2023):
- Equal pay for labour hire workers: Labour hire workers are entitled to be paid the same as employees directly engaged by a particular business.
- New discrimination protections: Employees experiencing family and domestic violence have new discrimination protections.
- Small business redundancy rules: If your company downsizes and becomes a small business during bankruptcy or liquidation, new rules apply to redundancy payments.
- Workplace delegate rights: Workers who represent their colleagues (delegates) get new rights, including paid training time.
- Right of entry: Removes the requirement for officials assisting a state or territory work health and safety representative to hold an entry permit under the Fair Work Act.
Coming soon (not before January 1st, 2025):
- Criminalizing wage theft and superannuation non-payment: Intentionally not paying wages or super will be a crime. A ‘Voluntary Small Business Wage Compliance Code’ will be available to small business employers.