In the leadup to the Federal Election, the Australian Labor Party (Labor) has released its Secure Australian Jobs plan and key policies on industrial relations and employment law reform. Below is a summary of the main areas of reform proposed by Labor and some insights into changes that may eventuate if Labor wins the election.
In 2021, the Coalition Government passed legislation that defined 'casual employment' in the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA) for the first time. The changes essentially defined a casual employee as an employee with 'no firm advance commitment to ongoing work with an agreed pattern of work'.
If elected, Labor has confirmed it will amend the Coalition's definition of 'casual employment' in the FWA, so that employment status will be determined solely by an employee's shift patterns. Labor wants to ensure that employees working regular shifts for a defined period are considered part-time or full-time and not casual. These proposed changes are aimed at increasing employees' bargaining power will contribute to lifting wages.
Same Job Same Pay
Labor also promises the 'same-job, same-pay' legislation that would ensure all workers receive the same pay. The proposed legislation would make it unlawful to pay labour hire employees less than those who are employed directly with the employer for the same job.
Labor asserts that many companies use labour hire workers as a strategy to bring in insecure workers at lower rates and undercut the wages of directly employed workers.
As with the proposed casual employment changes, Labor believes this will contribute to lifting wages across the country. Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Burke recently stated that "there is a direct line between insecure work and low rates of pay" and "we need to stop replacing permanent jobs with low-paid insecure and casual jobs where workers have no power to argue for a pay rise".
Paid Parental Leave - Superannuation
In 2021, Labor published its National Platform which set out the policy agenda an Albanese Labor Government will implement to progress Labor's historic task of fairness.
Labor has committed to achieving full gender equality in the workforce by expanding access to paid parental leave to 26 weeks at full pay with superannuation, funded through a combination of government and employer contributions.
Over the weekend, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese confirmed that if Labor takes office later this month, they would not pursue superannuation on paid parental leave in its first term. Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek supported this view with Labor likely to introduce these changes after their first term in government.
Labor has promised to introduce greater regulation to the 'gig economy'. Gig workers, such as rideshare and food delivery will be provided with some minimum standards under a Labor Government. The Fair Work Commission (Commission) will be given powers to set minimum standards for gig and other 'employee-like' workers.
Currently there is little information about how Labor will implement this policy, however it is likely that the Commission would make orders regarding entitlements such as minimum pay rates, superannuation and dismissal rights of contractors, who are not employees.
These changes will ensure that more workers will be able to access workplace entitlements that they cannot access under the current system.
Labor has indicated that, if elected it will limit the use of fixed term contracts. Labor will legislate to amend the FWA so that employers can only use fixed term contracts for the same role for a maximum of two years or two consecutive contracts.
Labor has promised to include secure work as an objective of the FWA. When the FWA was drafted it was impossible to foresee the growth of insecure work (e.g. gig work) and the inclusion of the term in the FWA will ensure the Commission considers job security when handing down its decisions.
Labor has also committed to consulting with state and territory governments, unions and industry representatives to develop portable entitlement schemes for those in insecure work. While some portable long service leave schemes exist to a limited extent in Australia, a Labor Government will introduce similar schemes nationally where possible.
Labor has also committed to tackling the gender pay gap by regulating pay secrecy in employment arrangements, if elected.
Labor has proposed a plethora of changes to the industrial relations and employment law system. The proposals mainly focus on combatting insecure work and creating a fairer system for Australian workers.
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