Closing the Loopholes bill

‘Closing the loopholes’ is about amending the current legislation which can allow large businesses to claim the small business redundancy exemption to avoid redundancy payments. The Timber Trade Industrial Association’s Brian Beecroft highlights some recent changes.

Image: TTIA

On December 7, 2023, the government passed some of the measures within the contentious Fair Work Legislation Amendments (Closing the Loopholes) Bill 2023 (‘The Bill’). On the last parliamentary sitting day of the year, it reached a deal with two cross senators, Lamb and Pocock.

Some of the key changes approved in a vote in the Senate are listed below:
• Criminal provisions for intentional underpayment of wages. While these changes have been passed by government, they have not yet come into effect. The changes will commence from January 1, 2025, or the date the minister declares a ‘Voluntary Small Business Wage Compliance Code’
• Same job, same pay for labour hire workers
• Extra rights for workplace delegates • Introducing the offence of industrial manslaughter in the Commonwealth Work, Health & Safety legislation. The amendments include changes to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 so that a person commits a criminal offence if the person is a PCBU with a health and safety duty, and intentionally engages in conduct which both breaches their health and safety duty and causes the death of an individual, where the person was reckless or negligent as to whether the conduct would cause the death of an individual. A person convicted of Industrial Manslaughter can be sentenced to up to 25 years imprisonment, and in the case of a body corporate offence – can be fined up to $18 million. This amendment comes into effect from July 1, 2024
• Strengthening the protections against discrimination, including preventing adverse action against employees subject to family and domestic violence, and
• Closing the ‘loopholes’ in which large businesses claim the small business redundancy exemption to avoid redundancy payments. This amendment prescribes additional circumstances where small business employers (ie employers with fewer than 15 employees) are no longer excluded from redundancy pay obligations. This only applies to employers that are bankrupt or in liquidation (other than only because of a members’ voluntary winding up), and who downsized to having less than 15 employees (to become a small business employer) within a certain time period of the bankruptcy/liquidation/appointment of insolvency practitioner. This amendment took effect on December 15, 2023.

A key change approved included ‘same job, same pay’ for labour hire workers. Image: AdobeStock/Roy Pedersen

WHS-related changes

Commencing from December 15, 2023, WHS-related changes include:
• Amendment to the offences and penalties framework
• Federal OHS laws to increase maximum penalties
• Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Act 2013 to expand the functions of the Asbestos and Silica Safety and Eradication Agency in relation to silica safety and silicarelated diseases, and
• Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 to implement presumptive liability provisions for those first responders who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.

The remaining sections of the Bill dealing with casual conversion rights and minimum conditions for truck drivers will be keenly debated in early 2024 with increasing opposition to the negative cost effects to the economy of any further changes.

A copy of the Amendments can be accessed by logging on to parlinfo.

TTIA will provide further updates on these changes and deal with them at its mid-year member briefings.

To stay in touch with all the important movements in the timber industry, or to contact the TTIA, log on to

Image: TTIA
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