Major workplace changes gain momentum in 2023

The last really significant changes in the Australian workplace took place over 10-15 years ago in the form of the abolition of WorkChoices legislation by the then Rudd government, and its replacement with the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA).

The election of the Coalition government in 2013 resulted in a largely timid approach to IR reform, and legislation remained largely unchanged until now. It was a case of ‘once bitten twice shy’ and that government largely kept the inherited IR structure intact for fear of adding to any scare campaign from the trade-union movement or its political opponents.

However, the changes passed by Parliament last December by the Albanese Labor government are in many ways just as controversial and significant as those in the WorkChoices legislation all those years ago. The main difference this time is arguably the pendulum and power balance has swung in the favour of the tradeunion movement and the new Labor government has largely delivered what that movement sought.


Where does that leave businesses in the timber-products industry?

Well, it leaves them with a very steep learning curve to get on top of the multitude of changes, both in terms of complying with the new legal requirements and coming to terms and adapting strategies that can deal with the power shift that has taken place.

The introduction of multi-employer bargaining with agreements covering multiple employers is a potentially seismic shift. It means business can be compelled to bargain for agreements that literally cover multiple employers as the Fair Work Commission (FWC) can make supported bargaining authorisations and single interest employer authorisations to allow this to occur.

Businesses promptly need to revise their bargaining position and consider whether they are susceptible to multi bargaining or roping-in applications. TTIA Legal can help discuss such options in this instance and a call to the Association would be a wise investment in your time.

Acceptable grounds

The new legislation has further expanded the scope for employees to request flexible work arrangements, including the requirement for employers to give:
• Valid reasons for any such request,
• Limits on refusing a request, and
• FWC arbitration powers to deal with disputes.

It’s no longer a case of management prerogative, but a case of business ensuring it has acceptable grounds for any refusal.

The new laws give the FWC the ability to invalidate any secrecy clauses in contacts in relation to a person’s pay. Employers need to review and alter such contracts to avoid financial penalties.

TTIA is available to assist you in reviewing your contracts in regard to this and other new measures that have been introduced. Now is definitely the time to get a health compliance checkup on those contracts of employment and policies.

Compliance notices

The Respect@Work changes introduce a number of changes in the legislation, including giving the Australian Human Rights Commission new powers to issue compliance notices to employers who fail to meet their obligations. The changes also make principals of a business liable for the actions of their employees with more far-reaching powers to the FWC to adjudicate on a sexual-harassment dispute. In light of these changes it may be time to conduct a risk identification and assessment process to identify the areas where the business may be exposed.

Employers will need to review current employee contracts and future hire contractswith regard to the use of fixed- or maximum-term contracts.

Significant changes have been made to fixed-term contracts, including restrictions on their use and term. Employers will need to review current employee contracts and future hire contracts in regard to the use of fixedor maximum-term contracts.

Employers should also note that legislation which commenced on February 1 this year amended the National Employment Standards in the FWA to introduce 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave (DVL) in a 12-month period, replacing the previous five days unpaid leave entitlement. In order to protect workers’ personal information, the new provision places an obligation on employers not to include any information on the payslip in relation to the paid family and domestic violence leave taken.

Industry meetings

The DVL change and others introduced in 2023 highlight the importance of employers having TTIA review their contractual arrangements to address their leave policies and other issues dealt with in this raft of IR changes. Call the TTIA office on (02) 9264 0011 to get those policies checked.

Finally, TTIA will be running a series of industry meetings in July specifically dealing with these changes and how they affect businesses in the timberproducts industry. The meetings will also deal with the myriad of award changes and relevant legal cases over the past 12-18 months, including the use of casual employees and directing employees to work on a public holiday, to ensure businesses are equipped to manage these significant changes. We will also go through our popular Q&A session on key award provisions as an essential revision exercise.

The dates are available by contacting the Association on (02) 9264 0011 or by emailing I urge business owners, senior personnel or HR/Payroll staff to register as early as possible to attend these important industry meetings.

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