This week the federal government will commence its Jobs and Skills Summit to discuss the economy and employment law reform. The Summit will bring together representatives from employer groups, unions, employers, civil society and government.
The Treasury recently published an Issues Paper that outlines the labour market objectives that will be discussed at the the Summit which include:
- Maintaining full employment and growing productivity
- Boosting job security and wages
- Lifting participation and reducing barriers to employment
- Delivering a high-quality labour force through skills, training and migration
- Maximising opportunities in the industries of the future
The Summit is also billed to have a strong emphasis on women’s rights in the labour market, and ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay.
What will be discussed at the Jobs and Skills Summit?
We believe some of the matters that might be raised at the Summit for discussion include the following:
- Removing barriers to enterprise agreement bargaining – including possibly:
- Abolishing all existing “zombie” enterprise agreements (very old agreements, with provisions that disadvantage employees)
- Increasing powers to force employers to bargain (negotiate) for new enterprise agreements, even where they are reluctant to
- Prohibiting the use of small cohort agreements (agreements approved by a small number of employees, then applying to much greater numbers of new employees who didn’t vote to approve the agreement)
- Making it easier for employees to take protected industrial action (eg strike) when bargaining for an enterprise agreement
- Allowing industry-based bargaining (currently enterprise agreements can only generally be negotiated by individual employees and employers)
- Reforming the way employers currently use labour hire, casual, fixed term and gig economy work arrangements – including possibly:
- Introducing “preserving job security” as an objective of the Fair Work Act (which would mean that all Fair Work Commission decisions, eg decisions about unfair dismissal and modern award amendments, would need to comply with this objective)
- Rolling-back the casual employment reforms of 2021 which made it easier (and safer) for employers to engage casual employees
- Imposing a limit on the maximum times fixed-term contracts can be renewed
- Requiring employers to prove they have been protecting job security for their workforce as a condition of securing contracts to provide services to government agencies (eg only a certain % of the workforce allowed to be casual / labour hire, etc)
- Introducing minimum wages and unfair dismissal rights for gig economy workers
- Creating a new class of worker, in between employees and contractors
- Ensuring that labour hire workers are entitled to “same work, same pay” (can’t be paid less than a directly employed employee would be)
- Prohibiting using labour hire workers to avoid terms of modern awards
- A better deal for women workers – including possibly:
- Adopting all recommendations of the Respect@Work Report
- Creation of a positive duty to eliminate sexual harassment / discrimination in the workplace
- Strengthening the capacity for Fair Work Commision to order pay increases in low paid, female dominated industries
- Requiring employers with more than 250 employees being required to publicly report on gender pay gaps
- Introducing a ban on pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts
We will be watching the Summit closely and will provide further information on the suggestions for reform that come out of the Summit as it becomes available.
About EI Legal
EI Legal is a specialist employment law firm focused on providing comprehensive employment solutions to SMEs and corporate clients. At EI Legal, we live and breathe employment law. All our lawyers are specialist employment lawyers, rather than generalists who dabble in this area.
The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional/legal advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact EI Legal for advice.