Two Workplace Relations Amendment Bills Introduced to the Federal Parliament

by | Dec 9, 2020 | Employment Law and Workplace Relations Blog

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter this morning introduced into Parliament the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Withdrawal from Amalgamations) Bill 2020 (the Withdrawal from Amalgamations Bill) and the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 (the Jobs and Economic Recovery Bill).

The Withdrawal from Amalgamations Bill makes technical amendments to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 concerning part of an amalgamated union (such as a division or branch) applying to the Fair Work Commission to ballot its members on the question of withdrawing from the amalgamated union.

The Jobs and Economic Recovery Bill, proposes a number of reforms.  A key reform being widely reported is that the Fair Work Commission would be given the power to approve two-year Enterprise Agreements that don’t leave all employees better off overall provided the Fair Work Commission is satisfied approval is appropriate in all the circumstances and is not contrary to the public interest.  Specifically though the Fair Work Commission must consider:

  • the views of employees and the employer (or employers) covered by the proposed agreement;
  • the views of bargaining representatives for the proposed agreement;
  • the circumstances of the employer, the employees and any union that has notified it wants the proposed agreement to cover it;
  • the impact of COVID-19 on the enterprise; and
  • the extent of employee support as expressed in the voting outcome.

Other changes proposed by the Jobs and Economic Recovery Bill include:

  • A casual employment definition;
  • Rights for casual employees to convert to full-time and part-time employment, enshrined as National Employment Standards;
  • Off-sets for specific casual loadings paid to casual employees to prevent them from receiving casual loading as well as claiming paid leave;
  • Some modern awards to include flexibility provisions allowing part-time employees to agree to work some additional hours from time to time without being paid overtime penalty rates;
  • Some modern awards to retain COVID-19 flexibility provisions for a further period up to two years;
  • An easing of current technical requirements for making Enterprise Agreements and changes to speed up Enterprise Agreement approval timeframes;
  • Major project provisions that allow the making of union greenfield Enterprise Agreements for up to 8 years;
  • Expanding the ‘small-claims’ employment jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court by allowing claims up to $50,000 (currently capped at claims up to $20,000); and
  • Support for fair competition by significantly increasing the penalties for employer underpayments (including a new criminal offence) and changes to make it easier for employees to recover unpaid wages.


Panetta McGrath will shortly post further details about the changes likely to affect our clients.  Meanwhile, if you would like more information please contact one of our Employment and Workplace Relations Team on (08) 9321 0522.

Sean Foy

Sean Foy