What will the ALP’s key IR policies mean for the ECEC sector?
With the Federal election just days away, Queensland workplace law expert Denise O’Reilly, Principal at O’Reilly Workplace Law, has shared her summary of the Australian Labor Party’s (ALP’s) key industrial relations (IR) policies that she thinks are of interest, and of concern, for business.
Changes to flexible labour
The ALP plans to make various changes to and limit the use of various forms of flexible labour – changes that will be of particular interest to the ECEC sector given the sector’s high number of casually employed staff.
Ms O’Reilly explains that the ALP’s plans to change and limit forms of flexible labour include:
- Creating a statutory definition of who is and is not a casual employee, which Ms O’Reilly expects will narrow the categories of workers who can be genuinely treated as casual;
- Providing a right to request to convert from casual employment to permanent employment after 12 months, and giving employees the right to litigate any refusal by their employer to convert them;
- By tightening up the definition of what amounts to, ‘sham contracting’; and,
- Passing laws to protect ‘gig economy’ workers (what this might look like is unclear at this stage).
Changes to enterprise bargaining laws
Ms O’Reilly also details that the ALP’s planned changes to enterprise bargaining laws will:
- Require enterprise agreements to be voted up by employees who reflect all who will be covered by them;
- Make it more difficult to terminate expired agreements;
- Make WorkChoices-era ‘zombie’ agreements automatically end;
- Give the Fair Work Commission greater powers to arbitrate enterprise bargaining disputes; and,
- Improve rights for employees and unions to take protected industrial action to support bargaining claims.
Other IR policies proposed by the ALP of interest to the ECEC sector include:
- Establishing a higher ‘living wage’ instead of the ‘minimum wage’ for employees not covered by awards;
- Providing for 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave;
- Increasing the severity of consequences for wage underpayments or ‘wage theft’, which would clarify that directors and other individuals involved in underpayments may be personally liable not only for fines, but for the value of any underpaid entitlements;
- By taking a range of steps they consider will help achieve gender pay parity, including by banning pay secrecy clauses, making it easier to vary awards in female dominated industries (including increasing childcare wages by 20 per cent), requiring large employers to disclose gender pay gaps, amongst other things; and,
- By tightening up laws affecting visa workers, including minimum pay of $65,000 for workers in areas of skills shortages, giving the Fair Work Ombudsman powers to inspect breaches of visa working conditions, amongst other things.
More information on the party’s IR policies is available on the ALP’s website.