The Fair Work Amendment (Secure Jobs Better Pay) Act 2022 (Cth) was passed in December 2022, bringing in the most significant industrial relations changes since the introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act).
Changes take effect on various dates – the next important date employers need to be prepared for is 6 March 2023.
Recap – Changes to Date
As a recap, the changes which took immediate effect on 7 December 2022 were:
breast-feeding, gender identify and intersex status introduced as grounds of discrimination;
changes to applications for the termination of enterprise agreements past the nominal expiry date;
start of the 12-month sunset period for “zombie” agreements (with the sunset date being 7 December 2023);
pay secrecy provisions commenced;
changes to the initiating of bargaining;
the Fair Work Commission (FWC) can deal with errors in enterprise agreements;
equal remuneration provisions commenced;
job security and gender equality were introduced as objectives of the FW Act and the modern award objective.
Other changes that have already taken effect include the advertising of pay rates in job ads and the abolishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
6 March 2023 Changes
The changes which take effect on 6 March 2023 are:
the prohibition on sexual harassment in connection with work commences, including the new framework for the FWC to deal with disputes about sexual harassment at work (modelled on the current provisions in the FW Act about general protections disputes);
functions of the Registered Organisations Commission absorbed by the FWC;
establishment of the expert panels for pay equity and the care and community sector.
Employers need to be prepared for the next tranche of changes, in particular the prohibition on sexual harassment in connection with work. Employers should:
review and update policies and procedures regarding sexual harassments and grievances, including any investigation procedures (noting the FWC will have regard to these matters in the event of a dispute);
provide bespoke workplace training for employees, managers and executive team / Board;
ensure that they have proper processes in place for monitoring the workplace environment and culture, including processes for responding to any risks or incidents of sexual harassment.