New Legislation - improvement of employment standards

Posted by Madeleine on 9 November 2015

The Government has introduced the Employment Standards Legislation Bill which is aimed at improving employment legislation in a number of areas, by making substantial amendments to various pieces of existing legislation.

The impact of the changes are as follows:

1. Paid Parental leave

The Bill proses to broaden the eligibility of the parental leave scheme and provide more flexibility to increase choice for both employers and employees. The key changes involve:

- Extending parental leave payments to non-standard employees (such as casual and seasonal) and those who have recently changed employers

- Extending parental leave entitlements to a wider range of primary carers than biological or adoptive parents

- Extending unpaid leave to employees who have been with their employer for more than 6 months (but less than 12) as a standard 6 month leave period

- Providing for greater flexibility in how the unpadi leave is taken

- Enabling "keeping-in-touch" days so employees can work limited hours during their paid leave if they choose

2. Zero hours contracts

The Bill will include a requirement that where the parties to an employment agreement commit to a set amount of hours, those contracted hours must be stated in the employment agreement.

The Bill also prohibits employers from:

- Requiring employees to be available for work beyond the specified contracted hours unless employees are able to refuse any work offered or the agreement provides compensation for that availability

- Cancelling a shift without reasonable notice or compensation

- Putting unreasonable restrictions on secondary employment

- Making unreasonable deductions from employees wages 

3. Enforcement of employment standards

The Bill also aims to increase the compliance of employers by:

- Providing for the Employment Court to award pecuniary penalities of up to $100,000 for a company or $50,000 for an individual for serious breaches

- Extending accountability to persons other than the employer (such as a director or CEO of a company) who are knowingly and intentionally involved in breaches of employment standards

- Enhancing the powers of labour inspectors to request information from employers and share information with other regulatory agencies

- An infringement notice regime for breaches of an employers obligations in relation to record keeping and individual developments

We will keep you up to date with developments.