Skip to content

Workplace Changes are about to hit hard!

Workplace Changes are about to hit hard!

Swift late-night changes to law are seen as sneaky and somewhat harmful and these changes are no different. Labour has managed to introduce Industrial Relation laws that will have a significant impact on businesses. As if Covid has not hurt enough!

The Bill is controversial according to many and businesses who are arming together to fight it, arguing it is a recipe for more strikes and more unemployment.

Let’s go through them:

  1. Multi-Employer Bargaining

The laws will make it easier for unions to negotiate pay deals that cover multiple similar businesses. For example, child cares and aged care where the sectors are doing like work. Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees are excluded and there are additional hurdles for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. If there is a current enterprise agreement in place this is also excluded.

The downfalls are clear the cost of negotiating these deals with businesses and being placed into deals that are against the ropes.

  1. Jobseeker deal

There will be an annual separate review of the government’s income support payments. An independent panel of experts will publish a review of payments like Jobseeker, aged pension and disability support pension and the government although don’t have to accept the panel advice will have to explain why.

  1. Pay Secrecy

Employees are no longer forced to keep their pay a secret. Some employers have clauses that state you cannot discuss your pay, from now on employees can decide if they want to share that information or not. If you have this clause, you can no longer enforce it.

  1. Flexible Working

Employers will be prevented from unreasonably refusing requests from staff who are trying to balance care duties with their professional job. It will now be an option to involve the Fair Work Commission and go through formal arbitration.

  1. Fixed Term Contracts

Instead of a rolling fixed term contract for 6 months or a year, employers will now only be able to offer a maximum of two conservative contracts or contracts that span two years, whichever is shorter. This should in theory give job security but may in fact do the opposite.

  1. Sexual Harassment Obligation

An employer or principal of the business or undertaking is liable for the conduct of their employees or agents who breach the prohibition on sexual harassment unless they can show they took reasonable steps to prevent the prohibited sexual harassment.

How will this all work?


The most immediate change relates to the use of ‘pay secrecy’ clauses in employment contracts.

As a result of the Bill, employees will be able to ask each other about and disclose, their remuneration and any associated terms (such as hours of work). Employers will be prevented from entering into an employment contract with an employee containing such a clause.

TO DO: If you use these clauses, you should review your employment contracts.

Next 3 months

Businesses will have a new obligation to prohibit sexual harassment in connection with work will commence in March 2023

These new provisions will enable harassed workers, unions and the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to obtain compensation, financial penalties and other orders against perpetrators of sexual harassment and businesses that do not take reasonable steps to guard against the risk of sexual harassment.

An employer or principal of the business or undertaking is liable for the conduct of their employees or agents who breach the prohibition on sexual harassment unless they can show they took reasonable steps to prevent the prohibited sexual harassment.

TO DO: Review your current policies and procedures in light of the proposed changes, including the positive duty to prevent sexual harassment.

Next 6 months

From June 2023 the process to respond to requests for flexible work requests are as follows:

  • employers who refuse a request to explain the business grounds for the refusal (if any) and how those grounds apply to the request; and
  • describe any alternative arrangements that the employer would be willing to make to accommodate the request; or
  • state that there are no changes made to the employee’s working arrangements.

In the event of a dispute, the Fair Work Commission will be able to determine these matters.

TO DO:  Review how you respond to requests for flexible work arrangements and consider whether any changes need to be made to incorporate the new requirements.

Next 12 months

Fixed term contracts will be limited commencing in December 2023.

Under the new arrangements, fixed terms contracts for the same role will be limited to two years or two consecutive contracts, including any renewals to the contracts.

Contracts in breach of this limitation will be unenforceable by the employer, and employees will become permanent employees once the limit is up. There are a number of arrangements that will not be bound by this ‘limit’ including for example:

  • Employees engaged to perform only a distinct and identifiable task involving specialised skills.
  • Employees engaged to undertake essential work during a peak period.
  • Apprenticeships and traineeships.
  • If the contract is funded by the government.

Employers are required to provide a Fixed Term Contract information statement to new employees who enter contracts with a fixed term.

TO DO: If you do engage employees on fixed term contracts you should review these arrangements.

Domestic Violence Pay

The obligation to provide 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave will apply to full-time, part-time, and casual employees from February 1 2023 and August 1 2023 for small businesses.

TO DO: Enact Policy around this.


Watch this space as more unfolds…..


Karena Nicholls - Criminal Lawyers Parramatta

Karena is a Partner at Coutts and is the Head of our Injury Compensation (with extensive knowledge in personal injury) and Employment Law teams. She is passionate and dedicated to helping her clients understand their rights and obligations and advising them on the best course of action to achieve their desired outcomes. It is her practical and client-orientated approach that has attributed to her authentic reputation positioning her as a highly regarded compensation and employment lawyer.

For further information please don’t hesitate to contact:

Karena Nicholls
1300 268 887

Contact our Employment Lawyers Today.

This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.

Contact Us