IR Reforms Update 2024

Highlighting the changes that have come into place from Jan-July 2024.

In the ever-evolving landscape of industrial relations has come notable changes focused on strengthening worker entitlements and promoting fairness in workplaces. Throughout the course of the year (Jan-July), a group of legislative amendments (Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act, various Closing Loopholes Acts and further Fair Work Act 2009 changes, has reshaped the framework of employment relationships and workplace safety.

Let’s delve into the key updates and what lies ahead in the area of industrial relations.

1st January 2024

Protecting Worker Entitlements – Superannuation Guarantee Under the NES

Superannuation entitlements were integrated into the National Employment Standards (NES) under the Protecting Worker Entitlement laws. This ensures that employees have a legally enforceable right to superannuation. While this doesn’t alter how employers manage super payments or payroll, it expands the avenues for employees, unions, and authorities to address unpaid or underpaid contributions through the Fair Work Ombudsman and the ATO.

Employers must ensure timely super payments and provide new employees with the updated Fair Work Info Statement as part of compliance efforts. Additional information is available on the Fair Work Ombudsman and DEWR websites, and Edwards HR is available for support.

27th February 2024

Sham Contracting

Changes to the sham contracting defence have occurred. Previously, the ‘recklessness’ test was replaced by a ‘reasonableness’ test. Where there is a dispute about the true nature of a ‘contractor’, employers must now prove they reasonably believed the worker was a contractor.

Civil penalties and serious contraventions

The new penalties under the Fair Work Act 2009 are primarily aimed at non-small business companies, with fines reaching $469,500 per contravention or $4,695,000 for serious breaches. Both companies and individuals now face doubled penalties for non-compliance with compliance notices. Additionally, the definition of a serious contravention has shifted to include actions done knowingly or recklessly.

Changes to enterprise agreements  and the bargaining process

Allowing the transition from a single-interest employer agreement or supported bargaining agreement to a single-enterprise agreement. Terms in an intractable bargaining determination made by the Commission can’t be less favourable to employees (or employee organisations) than terms in the existing enterprise agreement that deal with the same matters.

Compliance notice measures

Clarification that compliance notices issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman can require an employer to calculate the amount of underpayment owed to an employee. A court can order an employer to comply, either in part or in full, with a compliance notice.

Demergers of registered organisations

Changes made to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act in 2020 will be repealed, restoring the requirement that demerger applications from amalgamated registered organisations be made 2 to 5 years after the amalgamations occurred.

1st July 2024

Modern Awards, Delegates’ Rights Term

Compliant delegates’ rights terms will be mandated in all modern awards and forthcoming enterprise agreements on or after 1st July 2024.

Industrial Manslaughter added to the Work Health and Safety Act and increases to other penalties

The changes amend the WHS Act to strengthen the work health and safety offences and penalties regime by creating higher penalties for breaching work health and safety duties. An indexing mechanism applies to ensure work health and safety penalties retain their relative value and remain a serious deterrent into the future. New criminal responsibility provisions to ensure bodies corporate, and the Commonwealth are held accountable for breaches of work health and safety duties.

Exemption certificates for suspected underpayments

Registered organisations (usually unions) will be able to apply for an exemption certificate from the Commission to waive the 24 hours’ notice requirement for entry to investigate suspected underpayments. This applies where advance notice would interfere with the investigation.

July 2024 onwards

There are further changes from August onwards, most notably in relation to casual employment and the right to disconnect. You can read about these on our website. 

If you would like advice about how these changes will affect your business or would like to understand how we can support your compliance and risk mitigation efforts, Edwards HR are more than happy to help.

Stay up to date with all the upcoming changes via our Linkedin or sign up to our ‘Employer Update’ newsletter.

For more information about the changes, you can view updates on the Fair Work Ombudsman website here.

For more guidance about this update, or to find out how Edwards HR can support your business, contact our team today on 07 3568 0866.

Feel free to share this update with others in your network.

Book a Free Consultation

Free 30-minute HR consultation and a review of your existing employment agreement,
with our no-obligation recommendations.