Workplace law changes are now in effect

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Most of the sweeping changes to workplace laws legislated by the Albanese Government came into force on 6 June. Here’s what you need to know about how they may affect your business.

Cooperative workplaces bargaining

The new Cooperative Workplace Bargaining Stream allows employees from multiple workplaces to join an existing agreement. Employers and employees must agree to be covered and this can be subject to a workplace vote.

There are some exceptions, such as workplaces already covered by a supported bargaining authorisation or a Single Interest Authorisation (covered below).

Protected industrial action is not available under this stream and disputes between employer and employees may be subject to conciliation and arbitration.

Single Interest Bargaining

Single Interest Bargaining allows two or more workplaces with common attributes (which the Fair Work Commission is empowered to determine) to bargain with their workforces on a collective basis.

Previously, employers (who were not franchisees) and employee representatives had to gain Ministerial authorisation.

When employee bargaining representatives seek a bargaining authorisation covering a workplace with 50 employees or more, the onus is on the business to prove their operations are not reasonably similar to the other workplaces targeted by the authorisation.

Employers with fewer than 20 employees will be exempt from this stream unless they determine otherwise. The Fair Work Commission may also exempt a business under certain circumstances. Protected industrial action is allowed under this stream but only after conciliation and following an offer of 120 hours’ notice.

Changes to the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT)

The Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) establishes if workers will face better conditions on a new enterprise agreement compared to an underlying modern award and changed on 6 June.

The Fair Work Commission now has the power to alter an agreement after it is lodged if it believes it no longer passes the BOOT.

Flexible working arrangements

Employees who are pregnant or impacted by family or domestic violence can ask for flexible working conditions. Employers can still refuse a request on reasonable business grounds but will need to take extra steps.

Zombie Agreements

These are ageing workplace agreements entered into before 2010 and will automatically expire on 7 December this year. As of 6 June, employers with so-called Zombie Agreements should have issued written advice to employees.

Pay secrecy rules

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act abolishes pay secrecy clauses barring employees from discussing their wages with others. Any such terms written into new contracts since 7 December 2022 cannot be enforced.

Pay secrecy clauses included in contracts entered into before 7 December 2022, will remain active until such point as the contract is varied.

This is a summary only and NatRoad advisors can explain each of these changes in detail.