The "Secure Jobs, Better Pay" reforms represent the most significant workplace changes since the introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). You can find our previous article unpacking some of the detail of the reforms here.

The PCS team hosted two client briefings on "Australia's New Workplace Laws" this month. During these briefings the team shared insights about the reforms and the key changes to enterprise bargaining, sexual harassment in the workplace, individual employee relations, what the reforms really mean for employers and the strategy to be adopted.

If you were unable to join us, a full recording of the briefing along with the presentation slides and compliance checklists are available (details below).

Some of the key themes that emerged from the briefing were:

Enterprise bargaining and agreements - "Employers will be more incentivised to bargain than ever before"

Employers should be prepared for union-initiated bargaining. Moving forward, there will be more powers given to the unions and employees, and employers will be incentivised to bargain more than ever before. This is coupled with expanded powers of the Fair Work Commission ("FWC") to intervene in the enterprise bargaining process.

With the expanded powers of the FWC, employers should ensure their enterprise agreements are drafted clearly to avoid FWC intervention. Part of the challenge of maintaining positive employment relations will also be an employer's ability to create and sell their narrative around the benefits of their enterprise agreements.

Sexual harassment and Respect@Work changes - "The bar has been raised"

Overall, employers must operate at a "higher level" and adopt a holistic approach to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. There are now additional obligations on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, more avenues available to employees to bring sexual harassment claims and expanded powers of the FWC, Fair Work Ombudsman and Australian Human Rights Commission.

Organisations must now take a step further and understand the "grey area" on issues of harassment and discrimination. It is important that organisations are considering what additional measures they need to take, including undertaking meaningful behaviour and culture training, conducting culture audits, reviewing complaint handling procedures and monitoring complaints data.

Changes to individual employment relations - "Moving from insecure work to secure work"

There are a number of changes affecting individual employment relations. Employers need to be aware of their new legal obligations in relation to fixed-term contracts and pay secrecy. Employment contracts and other non-contractual documents should be reviewed and fixed-term arrangements should be documented in the event the arrangements are questioned.

Flexible working arrangements will continue to evolve with employees now having the ability to bring disputes about flexible working requests before the FWC.

Employers should consider their legal obligations in parallel with what works for their business, the values of their organisation and their "branding".

Strategic approach - "Be proactive, not reactive"

Employers should critically assess their workplace culture, policies, training and manager capability. Ultimately, many of these legislative changes mean that it is not just a "policy" solution, it is an "awareness" solution. Additionally, employers should consider what the optics are when it comes to the strategy they adopt when implementing these new workplace changes and own their narrative.

The changes we are seeing are only the beginning with further workplace reforms on the horizon. Ultimately, employers cannot just rely on the same "tricks" they have used in the past to get ahead of the game.

How PCS can help

PCS offers a wide range of services to organisations to ensure they are equipped to deal with the reforms to Australia's workplace laws. Our services include strategic HR consulting packages, culture audits, contract and policy reviews, and, behaviour and culture training.

The briefing was presented by Joydeep Hor (Founder & Managing Principal), Chris Oliver (Director), Kirryn West James (Director) and Rohan Burn (Senior Associate).

If you would like to receive a copy of the recording, along with the presentation slides and compliance checklists, the briefing can be purchased here.