Changes in Australian workplace laws for 2020

In BICSI Blog, BICSI Bytes, News by

Australian law firm, Macpherson Kelley, recently issued a media release that outlined several changes to workplace laws in 2020 that will impact on employer obligations and employee entitlements.

Paid parental leave

Under amendments to the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (Cth) (Parental Leave Act), the government is broadening the pool of eligible new parents able to access the existing 18 weeks’ leave, funded by the Federal Government at the national minimum wage.

From 1 January 2020, the Parental Leave Act amends the ‘work test’ which will result in more working mothers being able to access the Government’s Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme.

Previously, to be eligible for PPL, a parent must have worked a minimum of 330 hours in 10 of the 13 months prior to giving birth, with no more than an eight-week break between two working days.

The Parental Leave Act has amended the work test in the following ways:

  • The allowable break between working days has been extended from eight to 12 weeks; and
  • Women are permitted to move their work test period if they have been required to stop work early due to the impact of a workplace hazard upon their pregnancy.

The amendments apply to parents of children born or adopted on or after 1 January 2020.

Whistleblowing policies

On 1 January 2020, following a six-month ‘grace’ period, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 (Cth) (Whistleblower Act), took effect. This legislation obligates businesses to implement whistleblowing policies that are compliant with the provisions of the Whistleblower Act.

Workplace manslaughter

In November 2019, Victoria passed the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and other matters) Bill 2019 (Vic). The effect of this legislation is to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) to include the new offence of workplace manslaughter.

Workplace manslaughter will work to capture employers’ negligent conduct, whether through action or inaction, which results in the death of an employee or member of the public.

Annualised salaries

As of 1 March 2020, changes to annualised salary provisions in some modern awards will be implemented. This is a very complex issue, some key aspects are:

  • The awards that will be affected include the 19 modern awards that currently contain annualised salary provisions, plus the Horticulture Award 2010 and Pastoral Award 2010, which will soon include annualised salary provisions for the first time.
  • Employers who use annualised salary arrangements should review their employment agreements and prepare to make any variations necessary to ensure compliance with the new regime.

Superannuation guarantee

On 1 January 2020, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2019 Tax Integrity and Other Measures No. 1) Act 2019 (Cth) (Superannuation Act) came into effect.

The Superannuation Act requires that amounts an employee salary sacrifices to superannuation cannot reduce an employer’s superannuation guarantee charge. Salary sacrificed amounts also do not form part of any late contributions an employer makes that are eligible to be offset against the superannuation guarantee charge.

The Act states that, in order to avoid a shortfall, an employer must contribute at least 9.5% of an employee’s ordinary time earnings base to a complying superannuation fund or retirement savings account. An employee’s ordinary time earnings base is comprised of their ordinary time earnings and any amounts sacrificed into superannuation that would have otherwise been ordinary time earnings.

The Act requires that, where an employer has a shortfall, the amount of the shortfall is calculated by reference to their employee’s total salary or wages base. An employee’s salary or wages base is comprised of their salary and wages, and any amounts sacrificed into superannuation that would have been salary or wages, but for the salary sacrifice arrangement.