Littler Global Guide - Australia - Q2 2021

Browse through brief employment and labor law updates from around the globe. Contact a Littler attorney for more information or view our global locations.

View all Q2 2021 Global Guide Quarterly updates   Download full Q2 2021 Global Guide Quarterly

COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting Mandatory for Aged Care Providers

New Order or Decree

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler

Effective June 15, 2021, weekly reporting of employee vaccination status is mandatory for all providers of residential aged care services in Australia. Further, on June 28, 2021, the government announced that it will be mandatory for all employees in the aged care sector to be vaccinated against COVID. Employees have until mid-September to have their first dose to be permitted to continue working.

For all other employers, while employers can strongly recommend that their employees obtain a vaccination, most will not be able to enforce it unless doing so will amount to a “lawful and reasonable direction.” Essentially, employees would need to be working in a high-risk environment for an employer to impose a mandatory vaccination requirement; and even then, exceptions may apply (for example, if an employee’s medical condition prevents vaccination). Accordingly, employers are encouraged to seek advice before implementing an employee COVID vaccination policy.

FWC Provides Provisional View on Definition of Casual Employment

New Regulation or Official Guidance

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler

In April 2021, a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) released a discussion paper, reviewing (among other things) how relevant terms in modern awards interact with the new definition of “casual employee” in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act). Pointing out that “engaged as a casual” type definitions in modern awards are not consistent with the new definition of casual employee in s 15A of the FW Act, the FWC noted that the model clause may cause uncertainty and difficulty in relation to the interaction between awards and the FW Act, and that removing the model clause from modern awards and replacing it with a reference to the NES entitlement would make the awards operate consistently with the FW Act. The matter is listed for hearing on June 24-25, 2021. We will provide further updates of important developments.

Leave for Miscarriage Proposed

Proposed Bill or Initiative

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler

Following a wide-spread public campaign, proposed new legislation was introduced by the government on June 23, 2021, which, if passed, will change the paid compassionate leave entitlement in Australia to include leave for miscarriage for grieving parents. The change proposes to provide up to two days of paid leave for those who miscarry before 20 weeks and the leave would be available to the person who miscarries as well as their partner. The leave will be offered to anyone employed under the Fair Work Act, which covers private companies and the Commonwealth public service. Further updates will be provided as the Bill progresses through parliament.

Bill to Amend Sex Discrimination Law

Proposed Bill or Initiative

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler

On June 24, 2021, the government introduced the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021, seeking to amend both the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SD Act). Among other measures, the bill seeks to establish a prohibition on sex-based harassment, make “stop orders” available in sexual harassment cases, align the SD Act with the Work Health and Safety law, extend the SD Act to public servants, add sexual harassment as a valid reason for dismissal, amend the discretionary ground on which a complaint under the SD Act can be terminated and extend the timeframe to do so, and modify the existing entitlement to compassionate leave to include leave for miscarriage.

Key Employment Law Changes Effective July 1, 2021

Upcoming Deadline for Legal Compliance

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler

Employers in Australia should implement changes to their employment agreements and payroll processes to comply with several employment law changes that will be effective July 1, 2021, some of which include increases to (1) the minimum wage, (2) the high-income threshold and compensation limit, and (3) superannuation guarantee.

The national minimum wage increased to $772.60 a week ($20.33 per hour) and the minimum wage rates of pay (including allowance and expense amounts) under modern awards increased by 2.5%. In some modern awards, the increase has been delayed until September and November 2021, but the remaining increases are effective July 1. The high-income threshold increased from $153,600 to $158,500. This amount represents the jurisdictional limit for unfair dismissal claims. Additionally, the maximum compensation that an employee can be awarded in an unfair dismissal claim has also increased from $76,800 to $79,250. The superannuation guarantee increased from 9.5% to 10%. Employers must now pay superannuation on ordinary time earnings at the rate of 10% up to the applicable jurisdictional limit. Superannuation is scheduled to increase from July 1 each year until 2025 when it will reach 12%.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.