Issue 43 2020 - New Industrial Relations Reform Bill Introduced to Parliament

Updated: Jun 28

On 9 December, the federal government introduced a bill to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“FW Act”) and related legislation to assist Australia’s recovery from COVID-19. The legislation seems likely to be referred to a Senate inquiry and may be subjected to negotiated amendments. This EMA Note provides an overview of the industrial relations areas of proposed reform.


The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 has only just been introduced to Parliament. It contains provisions that the government says are designed to facilitate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bill contains provisions in the following areas.

Casual Employment
  • To insert a formal definition of casual employment under the FW Work Act to prevent “double dipping” of casual loading and leave payments under the National Employment Standards (“NES”).

  • To provide a right of casual conversion similar to those in the awards for all long-term casual employees.

Modern Awards
  • To create a simpler method for a part-time employee to agree in advance with the employer to work additional ordinary hours at their ordinary pay and accrue leave entitlements on those additional ordinary hours. This will apply under 12 identified modern awards.

  • To permit employers to issue flexible work directions about an employee’s duties or locations of work similar to those of the equivalent JobKeeper-enabling directions. They will be available only if there is reasonable evidence that they are necessary to assist an employer to recover from the impacts of the pandemic. These amendments will have sunset provisions.

Enterprise Agreements
  • A substantial list of changes to procedural requirements for bargaining, approval, the Better off Overall Test, NES precedence and terminating old agreements.

Compliance and Enforcement
  • Various initiatives on sham contracting, prohibiting the advertising of jobs below the minimum wage, criminalising underpayments and increasing the ABCC and Fair Work Ombudsman’s powers.

  • Increases to the value and scope of some civil penalties and orders for non-compliance.

The changes are not yet law and may be amended or defeated. EMA Consulting will analyse the Bill more closely in coming weeks and keep subscribers up to date with any relevant developments.

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