Changes afoot in WA employment law

by | Oct 28, 2020 | Employment Law and Workplace Relations Blog

Western Australian employers should be prepared for significant changes to the legislation regulating workplaces in Western Australia.

Two bills anticipated to pass through the WA Parliament are likely to significantly change WA workplace laws.

Proposed changes to WA employment laws

A bill seeking to amend the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA), the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993 (WA) and the Long Service Leave Act 1958 (WA) is currently making its way through the WA Parliament.

According to the Explanatory Memorandum the Bill will implement to the following legislative changes:

  • remove exclusions from the definition of employee affecting the rights of employees paid solely by commission;
  • introduce a stop workplace bullying jurisdiction for the Industrial Relations Commission;
  • introduce an equal remuneration jurisdiction for the Commission;
  • vary the scope of private sector awards to ensure that all State private sector employees are covered by an award, other than those not traditionally award-covered;
  • modernise the Long Service Leave Act 1958 and introduce penalties for non-compliance;
  • increase penalties for breaches of employment laws, strengthen industrial inspector powers and enhance rights of authorised representatives;
  • allow the Industrial Magistrates Court to treat illegal contracts of employment as valid (such as those involving visa holders working in contravention of visa conditions);
  • address the lack of certainty as to which industrial relations jurisdiction applies to WA local government;
  • a prohibition on:
    • employers unreasonably requiring employees to spend, or ‘pay back’ to the employer, their wages (colloquially known as ‘cash backs’);
    • employers discriminating against employees because of their right to inquire or complain about their employment conditions;
    • employment being advertised at less than the applicable minimum wage for the position;
    • sham contracting arrangements;
  • a successful claimant be able to recover legal costs in the case of systematic and deliberate underpayments; and
  • broader powers for industrial inspectors, including the power to post a notice at a workplace outlining employment rights and obligations.

At this stage, it is unclear when the Bill will pass Parliament and whether the proposed amendments will be passed in their entirety so watch this space.

Proposed changes to OHS laws incorporating industrial manslaughter provisions

The Work Health and Safety Bill 2019 was passed by the Legislative Council on 21 October 2020.

The bill is anticipated to pass through the Legislative Assembly again in November although no further opposition or debate is expected.

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has not finalised the regulations that will operate with the new WHS Act, however we understand that work is underway and is expected to be completed in early 2021, which will be around the time the Act receives Royal Assent.

The Act which includes industrial manslaughter provisions will not commence operation until the regulations are finalised.

However, directors and managers should reflect upon whether their health and safety management systems satisfy their obligations under the new regime.


Please contact our Employment and Workplace Relations team on (08) 9321 0522 should you require any practical advice regarding these impending changes.