Skip to main content


By November 9, 2022No Comments

It is likely that the most unsettled and mutable area of law in Australia concerns industrial and workplace relations. This often reflects the social and economic philosophies of our major political parties. As one party leaves office, another party brings fresh ideas…and laws…to regulate the workplace. The period from the mid 1990’s through to the early 2000’s saw seismic shifts through three separate and cumbersome pieces of industrial law legislation.

Since 2009, Australian workplaces have been regulated by the Fair Work Act (FWA). Whilst this legislation has been in situ for well over a decade, it has constantly been fine tuned to reflect changing community standards and expectations. This has been particularly so, in the areas of casualisation of the workplace, maternity leave, domestic violence leave and of course in response to the Covid 19 emergency and the need to work remotely.

During this time, the courts have also been busy, interpreting and applying the statute and providing common law guidance on issues such as independent contractors, discrimination, Award minimum entitlements and unfair dismissal.

It’s enough to profoundly confuse the most diligent business operators. Spare a thought (although not too much sympathy, I’m sure) for lawyers who provide advice and guidance to those business operators to ensure they are not drawn into complex, costly and protracted litigation. It is a major challenge to stay on top of the evolution.

And so, with the recent election of a new federal government, the challenge (and fun) continues. The government has recently introduced into parliament, the 243 page Fair Work Legislation (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022. The key reforms proposed by the Secure Jobs Bill include:

  • limitations on the use of fixed term contracts (not longer than two years);
  • expanding the ability of employees to request flexible working arrangements;
  • simplification of enterprise bargaining processes;
  • multi-employer bargaining in some sectors;
  • new powers to improve gender pay equality;
  • prohibiting pay secrecy clauses;
  • further prohibitions on sexual harassment;
  • abolition of the Registered Organisations Commission and the Australian Building and Construction Commission; and
  • prohibiting the advertisement of employment at below award rates.

The amending Bill aims to drive up real wages, reduce the gender pay gap and provide more secure tenure of employment (amongst other things). It has been welcomed by unions but met with some hesitation by business groups. Now the “horse trading” with minor parties in the Senate will begin. It will be interesting to see how much of this Bill becomes law and how much is amended.

Stay tuned!

Contact Tony O’Connor, Litigation Partner for further information on this or any Employment Law matters.