Protecting Worker Entitlements Bill deserves robust consideration

“The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Bill 2023 tabled in Federal Parliament today will make a number of significant legislative amendments. While the changes are likely to be less controversial than the major reform foreshadowed for introduction in the second half of this year, it should still be subject to robust consideration by the Parliament,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

“The Bill significantly expands the parental leave entitlements of employees. While industry is supportive of measures to help employees balance work and parenting responsibilities, we are concerned that they don’t appear to be accompanied by sufficient measures that ensure that these expanded entitlements operate in a balanced and practical manner.

“While most employers are keen to accommodate the needs of working parents, they do need the ability to manage staff absences in a reasonable way. Parental leave is important but should not be unworkable for business.

“The Bill would duplicate employer obligations relating to superannuation by essentially replicating such requirements currently provided for under superannuation laws with new obligations under the Fair Work Act. Careful consideration needs to be given as to whether the Bill will undermine the clarity that is currently provided to industry by the ATO playing the primary role in enforcing and providing guidance on complex superannuation laws. The last thing industry needs is more complexity to be built into our already complex system.

“The Bill changes the Fair Work Act’s current provisions enabling employee payroll deductions to third parties to include variations to deducted amounts without the need for separate agreement by the employee. This will no doubt make it easier for third parties, like unions, to increase the fees that they charge their members while using employers to administer the deduction of fees from employee pay.

“While there are proposed changes relating to the Coal Industry Long Service Leave Scheme that would deliver significantly enhanced entitlements to casual employees, it fails to address a raft of other well known deficiencies in the scheme. Industry is hopeful that the Government and Parliament will take a balanced approach in the next tranche of reforms by also addressing employer concerns with the scheme as soon as possible.

“We acknowledge that the Government has already engaged in more detailed consultation with industry representatives than occurred in the rushed tranche of changes rammed through Parliament late last year. It is crucial that this constructive engagement with industry is maintained with this new Bill and that the Government remains open to making sensible amendment to the Bill,” Mr Willox said.

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