Impor­tant Changes to Employ­ment Law for 2013

Fair Work Changes

Var­i­ous amend­ments made to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) came into force on 1 Jan­u­ary 2013. A sig­nif­i­cant change is to the time peri­ods with­in which dis­missal appli­ca­tions must be lodged with the renamed Fair Work Com­mis­sion (for­mer­ly Fair Work Aus­tralia):

  • The time for lodg­ing an unfair dis­missal claim increas­es from the pre­vi­ous 14 days to 21 days for those dis­missed on or after 1 Jan­u­ary 2013.
  • The time for lodg­ing a gen­er­al pro­tec­tions claim (relat­ing to ter­mi­na­tion) decreas­es from the pre­vi­ous 60 days to 21 days for those dis­missed on or after 1 Jan­u­ary 2013

For more infor­ma­tion please see New Work­place Laws arti­cle.

Dad and Part­ner Pay

The Paid Parental Leave and Oth­er Leg­is­la­tion Amend­ment (Dad and Part­ner Pay and Oth­er mea­sures) Act 2012 (Cth), amongst oth­er things, makes amend­ments to the Paid Parental leave Act 2010 (Cth). The broad­en­ing of the gov­ern­ment fund­ed paid leave means that from 1 Jan­u­ary 2013, a dad or part­ner may be eli­gi­ble for 2 weeks leave, paid at the nation­al min­i­mum wage rate (cur­rent­ly $606.40 per week).

A dad or part­ner” includes:

  • bio­log­i­cal father of the child
  • part­ner of the birth mother
  • adopt­ing parent
  • part­ner of the adopt­ing parent
  • par­ent in a sur­ro­ga­cy arrangement
  • part­ner of a par­ent in a sur­ro­ga­cy arrange­ment, or
  • same-sex part­ner of the birth moth­er, bio­log­i­cal father or the adopt­ing parent.

There are var­i­ous cri­te­ria to be met in order to be eli­gi­ble for the paid leave. The dad or part­ner must:

  • pro­vide care for a child born or adopt­ed on or after 1 Jan­u­ary 2013
  • be an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen or resident
  • have worked for at least 10 out of the 13 months before the date the Dad and Part­ner Pay Peri­od” com­mences and at least 330 hours in that 10 month peri­od (just over a day a week), with no more than an eight week gap between two con­sec­u­tive work­ing days;
  • have an indi­vid­ual adjust­ed tax­able income of $150,000 or less in the finan­cial year either before the date of the claim or the date the Dad and Part­ner Pay Peri­od” com­mences (whichev­er is the ear­li­er); and
  • be on unpaid leave or not work­ing dur­ing the Dad and Part­ner Pay Period”.
Report­ing on Gen­der in the Workplace

The Equal Oppor­tu­ni­ty for Women in the Work­place Act 1999 (Cth) which intro­duced employ­er report­ing on their progress regard­ing women in the work­place has been amend­ed to form the new Work­place Gen­der Equal­i­ty Act 2012 (Cth). This has also meant a change in the name of the respon­si­ble gov­ern­ment agency from the Equal Oppor­tu­ni­ty for Women in the Work­place Agency to the Work­place Gen­der Equal­i­ty Agency (the Agency). It is to this renamed body that employ­er reports must be submitted.

Although the require­ment is pre­served, that non pub­lic sec­tor employ­ers with 100 employ­ees or more must report cer­tain gen­der spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion, if an employ­er’s num­ber of employ­ees falls below 100, it must con­tin­ue to report until it has less than 80 employees.

The cur­rent report­ing régime will be main­tained for the 2012 – 2013 peri­od, how­ev­er employ­ers will need to com­ply with new noti­fi­ca­tion and access requirements.

For the 2013 – 2014 peri­od, the new report­ing régime will be in place.

In respect of each new report­ing peri­od, a rel­e­vant employ­er must pre­pare a pub­lic report in writ­ing con­tain­ing infor­ma­tion relat­ing to the employ­er and to the gen­der equal­i­ty indi­ca­tors”. The fol­low­ing gen­der equal­i­ty indi­ca­tors” for the new report­ing frame­work are:

  1. gen­der com­po­si­tion of the workforce
  2. gen­der com­po­si­tion of gov­ern­ing bod­ies of rel­e­vant employers
  3. equal remu­ner­a­tion between women and men
  4. avail­abil­i­ty and util­i­ty of employ­ment terms, con­di­tions and prac­tices relat­ing to flex­i­ble work­ing arrange­ments for employ­ees and to work­ing arrange­ments sup­port­ing employ­ees with fam­i­ly or car­ing responsibilities
  5. con­sul­ta­tion with employ­ees on issues con­cern­ing gen­der equal­i­ty in the workplace
  6. any oth­er mat­ters spec­i­fied by the Min­is­ter in a leg­isla­tive instrument.

After con­sul­ta­tion with stake­hold­ers, the Min­is­ter must, by leg­isla­tive instru­ment, spec­i­fy mat­ters in rela­tion to each gen­der equal­i­ty indi­ca­tors” pri­or to the begin­ning of the report­ing peri­od to which they apply.

Employ­ers with 100 employ­ees (or more) need to be aware of the chang­ing require­ments under this legislation.

Bills cur­rent­ly before Fed­er­al Par­lia­ment like­ly to become Law

Har­mon­i­sa­tion of Fed­er­al Dis­crim­i­na­tion Legislation
2013 is like­ly to see Par­lia­ment pass­ing the cur­rent Human Rights and Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Bill 2012 (Cth) which late last year was being con­sid­ered by the Sen­ate. The Bill con­sol­i­dates var­i­ous fed­er­al pieces of anti dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion into one. It also cov­ers the field of what is pro­tect­ed from dis­crim­i­na­tion adding impor­tant cat­e­gories such as sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion (not pre­vi­ous­ly pro­tect­ed at a Fed­er­al level).

Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, this Bill also intro­duces a reverse onus of proof in dis­crim­i­na­tion claims. That means, once some­one has brought a claim and pro­vid­ed evi­dence as to dis­crim­i­na­to­ry action(s) it is up to the oth­er side to prove the action was not dis­crim­i­na­to­ry.

For more infor­ma­tion please see our Fed­er­al Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Leg­is­la­tion Har­monised arti­cle.

Fair Enti­tle­ments Guar­an­tee Bill 2012
This piece of pro­posed leg­is­la­tion is to cod­i­fy into law the cur­rent arrange­ments under the Gen­er­al Employ­ee Enti­tle­ments Redun­dan­cy Scheme (GEERS).

GEERS and the Bill pro­vide a lev­el of Gov­ern­ment finan­cial assis­tance for employ­ees in cir­cum­stances where an employ­er has entered into bank­rupt­cy or gone into liquidation.

Employ­ee enti­tle­ments which can be advanced include: wages, annu­al leave, long ser­vice leave, pay in lieu of notice and redun­dan­cy pay.

For more infor­ma­tion please see our Fair Enti­tle­ments Guar­an­tee Bill 2012 arti­cle.