Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill passes through the Senate – A reminder of its key measures
The Sector > Policy > Legislation > Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill passes through the Senate – A reminder of its key measures

Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill passes through the Senate – A reminder of its key measures

by Jason Roberts

December 05, 2022

The Federal Government’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill has successfully passed through the Senate.


The Bill outlines a range of measures aimed at resetting important aspects of how Australia’s employers, employees, unions and Governments interact across a number of important workplace related areas, and its passing is part of a broader effort by the Government to promote job security, close the gender pay gap and create what it believes are more optimal conditions to encourage wage growth to occur. 


The Bill is of particular importance to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector because the reforms were designed with the care based (child, aged, community and disability) sectors in mind, where wages have historically been lower than other sectors and workforces have been female dominated.


This article is aimed to provide general insights about the key parts of the new legislation that are likely to be of relevance to ECEC. It is not an exhaustive list or analysis of the Bill. It is a high-level summary. 


Readers, both employers and employees, should reference the source material, consider their own circumstances and seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to any information included. 


The key highlights from the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill are as follows:


Reforms designed to impact how the Fair Work Commission operates:


Key change – The objects of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) will be adjusted to include the promotion of job security and gender equality when performing functions or exercising its powers under the Fair Work Act (FWA), including the Modern Awards. 


Key change – The FWC must now in its consideration of equal remuneration and work value cases do so free of assumptions based on gender, and include consideration of whether there has been historical gender-based undervaluation of the work under consideration.


Key change – The FWC must establish a Pay Equity Expert Panel and a Care and Community Sector Expert Panel to determine equal remuneration cases and appointment members with expertise in gender pay equity, antidiscrimination and the Care and Community Sector.


Impact – The adjustments to the FWC’s objectives and approach will have an outsized impact on sector’s such as ECEC and lead to decisions, both at the Modern Award and pay equalisation case level, that are more likely to favour higher wage determinations. 


Reforms designed to improve access to bargaining for low paid sectors:


Key change – The creation of a new “supported bargaining stream” that is intended to assist those employees and employers who may lack the necessary skills, resources and power to bargain effectively, with those in low paid sectors such as ECEC singled out as beneficiaries.


Key change – Employee bargaining representatives are able to apply for a bargaining  authorisation from the FWC where there is majority support from employees. Employers can apply to be removed, and the FWC can grant it, if a majority vote of employees is passed.


Key change –  The proposed amendments would simplify the process for initiating bargaining under certain circumstances that would enable an employee, via a bargaining representative, to initiate bargaining by making a written request to the employer.


Impact – The new reforms are likely to increase the instances of employee representative (Union) led applications to engage employers in a bargaining process.


Reforms designed to create fairer and more transparent workplaces:


Key change – The Bill will expand the circumstances in which an employee may request flexible work arrangements, to include situations where an employee, or a member of their immediate family or household, experiences family and domestic violence. 


Key change – A new procedure for dealing with requests for flexible work including by expanding the employer’s obligations to discuss a request for a flexible work arrangement with the employee, provide reasons for any decision to refuse the request, and if the request is refused inform the employee of any changes in working arrangements the employer is willing to make that would accommodate the employee’s circumstances.


Key change – The anti-discrimination framework in the FW Act will see the addition of three further protected attributes—breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status—to the existing provisions that provide protections against discrimination.


Key change – A new prohibition on sexual harassment will be added into the FW Act to implement recommendation 28 of the Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces (Respect@Work Report).


Key change – New provisions in the FWA will give employees a positive right to disclose (or not disclose) details about their remuneration and any related terms and conditions to any other person, as well as to ask other employees about their remuneration and other related terms and conditions of their employment. 


Impact – These new reforms are consistent with the Government’s broader aims to address matters that it sees as counter productive to fairness, transparency and security in workplaces in Australia. They are generic in nature, but will also impact the ECEC sector. 


To access a copy of the Bill in full please see here. 

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