There have been changes to workplace relation laws as the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 received royal assent in December.

Part one of the bill has been passed, with changes coming into effect from December onwards. Part two will be debated in early 2024.

Changes to the Fair Work Act

Beginning in December 2023, the ‘loophole’ has been closed in which large businesses have been able to claim the small business redundancy exemption in situations where they have downsized due to insolvency. This means where they had previously claimed they did not have to make redundancy payments because they had scaled back to fewer than 15 employees, now they may be required to pay in that situation.

For businesses using an enterprise agreement, any labour hires will need to be paid the same as those working under the enterprise agreement.

From January 2025, intentional underpayment of wages, as well as superannuation and other benefits, will become a criminal offence.

From December 2023, a workplace delegate that is appointed or elected as a representative of a union is now entitled to:

  • Represent the industrial interests of members and potential members of the union (including in disputes with their employer)
  • Reasonable communication with members and potential members about their industrial interests
  • Reasonable access to the workplace and its facilities to represent those industrial interests

Delegates employed by non-small businesses are also entitled to have reasonable access to paid time during normal working hours for workplace delegate training.

Bargaining representatives who applied for a protected action ballot order must attend the mediation and conciliation conference, as well as the employer and their bargaining representative.

Changes to Work Health and Safety Act 2011

New changes now criminalise the offence of industrial manslaughter. From 1 July 2024, the penalties for contravention of this act will be increased.

Changes to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1998

The process for first responders to apply for workers compensation claims related to post-traumatic stress disorder has been streamlined to allow for greater support.

Blaine Hattie is a business lawyer and principal at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers.

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