From 1 July 2019, a number of minor industrial relations changes have taken effect pursuant to the Fair Work Act and other amending regulations. These changes include a new form of entry permits, increases to Fair Work Commission filing fees, national minimum wage and the high income threshold amount.
Employers need to be aware of any changes to industrial relations laws to safeguard their business from inadvertent breaches of their workplace obligations.
Photo ID for new form of entry permit
From 1 July 2019, right of entry permits issued by the Fair Work Commission must include a photo and signature of the permit holder, pursuant to the Fair Work Amendment (Modernising Right of Entry) Regulations 2019.
In addition to the photo and signature requirements, a significant change to the right of entry permit is the inclusion of a “QR Code,” which when scanned using an application on a smart phone will direct users to the current list of permit holders on the Fair Work Commission website. This allows employers to confirm the status of the entry permit and verify whether it is still current.
Permits that are still current under the existing system will remain valid until they expire. From 1 October 2019, permit holders will be required to produce a Government-issued photographic identification that is current along with their existing permit when entering premises.
The entry notice that must be given to employers will also be required to include an additional information box from this date, which sets out:
- The rules the permit holder, occupier of the premises and affected employer must follow when rights of entry are being exercised.
- Consequences for failing to comply with a right of entry related obligation (under Part 3-4 of the Fair Work Act).
- Contact details for the appropriate regulator in the event of any queries (the Fair Work Ombudsman or Australian Building and Construction Commission).
Increases to high income threshold, filing fees and minimum wage
From 1 July 2019, the high income threshold in unfair dismissal cases increased to $148,700 (up from $145,400) and the compensation limit to $74,350 (up from $72,700).
Other changes that took effect from 1 July 2019 include the filing fee for unfair dismissal, unlawful termination, general protections and anti-bullying applications made under relevant sections of the Fair Work Act will increase to $73.20 (up from $71.90).
Employers are also reminded that as of 1 July 2019 the national minimum wage has increased to $19.49 per hour (up from $18.93), or $740.80 per week (up from $719.20). The increases apply from the first full pay period starting on or after 1 July 2019.
On 30 May 2019, the Fair Work Commission announced the three per cent increase to the national minimum wage. Award covered employees will also receive a three per cent increase on the base rate of pay from 1 July 2019.
Employers are encouraged to review and update their systems and process, particularly those relevant to employees’ salaries and wages, to ensure these changes are implemented and avoid penalties.
Amended whistleblowing laws
The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2019 took effect yesterday, providing greater protections for whistleblowers who report misconduct about companies and company officers.
The new legislation bolsters the whistleblower protection regime, effectively encouraging whistleblowers to speak out.
Whilst the laws are now in effect, public and large private companies have until 1 January 2020 to ensure they have a compliant whistleblower policy in place.
Key reforms include:
- An expansion of the category of persons who can make disclosures, covering both current and former company employees, officers, and contractors, as well as their family members.
- A requirement for public companies, large proprietary companies, and corporate trustees of superannuation funds to have a whistleblower policy from 1 January 2020.
- Criminal offences and significant civil penalties for non-compliance.
- A reverse onus of proof when a person seeks compensation, once they have established they have suffered detriment
It is recommended employers consider:
- Ensuring compliant whistleblower policies are in place.
- Ensuring appropriate procedures are in place to deal with disclosures.
- Ensuring training has been provided to staff on the organisation’s whistleblower policy, and to ‘eligible recipients’ on receiving / responding to disclosures.
For more information on these changes or any other policy matters, contact [email protected]