What should businesses expect from the ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ Bill?

Over the years, the Fair Work Act 2009 has ruled over employee relationships in Australian private workplaces. This piece of legislation has set the minimum standards that employers and businesses across all industries should follow to ensure fair employment, thereby standardising the national workplace system.

The law has recently seen amendment after 13 years of its implementation. The Fair Work Legislation Amendment, dubbed the Secure Jobs, Pay Better Bill, aims to keep the existing regulations up-to-date, ensuring fairness among workers of all genders and generally giving employees more control over their employment.

In this article, we will be going through the details of this bill. Read on, as we will explore the changes it will bring and its implications for the modern Australian workplace.

Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill: a quick explanation

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill is a
major amendment to the Fair Work Act 2009. It introduced a number of changes that addressed common workplace issues and practically modernised the law. Here are the details:

What does the bill change?

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill allows employees better working arrangements — that is, more flexible work schedules, fairer agreements, and improved job security — establishing transparency when it comes to pay and fixed contracts. It practically empowers workers, allowing them to better bargain for their pay and work arrangement.

Collective bargaining laws see major changes from this bill. What the legislation does in this regard is increase small business threshold for multi-employer bargaining, streamline the process for the disputes over flexible working arrangements, and shorten the minimum bargaining period until the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has to intervene.

The bill also introduces measures that protect employees from sexual harassment and discrimination. It aligns the existing Fair Work Act with Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws and addresses the prevalent issue of the gender pay gap. Indeed, the bill makes it a significant goal to introduce a statutory equal remuneration principle on top of promoting job security.

Additionally, the bill updates and streamlines Australia’s labour bureaucracy. It does so by abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC). The former’s functions and authority will be transferred to the Fair Work Ombudsman, while the latter’s powers will be handed over to the General Manager of the FWC, moving forward.

Who will benefit from this bill?

Australian workers are the primary beneficiaries of the changes entailed in the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill. The bill essentially gives them better control over their work arrangement, reducing the range of the grounds for termination, and protecting them from unfair work conditions. 

Employers will have to give way for these changes to push through. As such, they and their respective organisations have expressed concerns with the bill. In particular, they are worried about the scope of some of the amendments and its varying impacts on different industries.

Are the bill’s amendments necessary?

The changes introduced by the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill are an absolute necessity in the ever-changing Australian workplace. The world of work has seen major changes during the height of the pandemic and with the advent of economic reopening. Workers are now more empowered, and employers must now do all they can to keep precious talent in their workforce. As such, the relevant laws have to keep up to keep both employees happy while mitigating the impact on employers and businesses.

How is the bill doing now?

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill was first introduced to the Parliament on 27 October, 2022. After careful deliberations, an agreement was made between the ALP, the Greens, and independent ACT Senator David Pocock — the bill passed the Parliament on 2 December and received royal assent from the Governor-General on the 7th. As it is,
the bill is now made into law, now known as the Fair Work Legislation Amendment Act 2022.

How does the bill benefit the labour-hire industry?

Labour hire companies, especially those in the security and cleaning sectors, are bound to reap plenty of benefits from the amendments introduced by the bill. Here are some of the advantages that employers in these industries should expect.

Flexible work arrangements work well with labour hire businesses

While remote work is not possible for the likes of security guards and cleaning personnel, they can certainly benefit from the fact that they can choose their work schedule. This ability practically helps them perform better at work, improving productivity and increasing employee engagement.

The amendments incentivises employees

The bill is projected to increase worker salaries by almost $1,500. Although this will increase labour costs, it incentivises employees and encourages better performance at work. Furthermore, the changes to relevant job security laws increases employee loyalty and improves employee retention.

Reduced worker strikes

The increased pay grade and fairer regulations introduced by the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill should help keep employees happy and lower dissatisfaction. Satisfied employees are less likely to protest their workplace conditions, unions are less likely to go on strikes, and the flow of profits is not disrupted as a result.

Compliant businesses attract talent

A company that pays its workers fairly, protects its employees from sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, and offers reasonable contract terms easily attracts more people to its hiring pool. While employers may have to slow down recruitment due to increased costs, they get the ability to attract top talent to their ranks.

Faster bargaining means shorter disruptions

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill significantly boosts industry-wide pay grades. However, this does not mean that everything is flowers and rainbows for workers all over the country. It is not unreasonable to expect petitions and collective bargaining, which may disrupt your business’s operations. However, the amendments that streamline the bargaining process mean that all parties can get to a resolution faster.

In Summary

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment 2022, which we know better as the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill, gives more power to workers over their employment. While it is meant to mainly benefit employers nationwide, it can benefit businesses in the long run especially in the labour aspect.

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