Littler Global Guide - Australia - Q4 2023

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 Q4 2023 Global Guide Quarterly updates   Download full Q4 2023 Global Guide Quarterly

Intentional Underpayment of Wages a Criminal Offense

New Legislation Enacted

Authors: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder, and Xi (Grace) Yang, Of Counsel – Littler

Under the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (known as the Closing Loopholes Act), as of January 1, 2025, intentional underpayment of employees’ wages and certain benefits will be a criminal offense, with a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for individuals, and/or a fine of up to AU$7.825 million for a company.

The new law also allows employees, unions and employers to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to ensure labor hire employees are paid at least what they would receive under the company’s enterprise agreement, or in equivalent public sector jobs.

New Rules Apply to Fixed Term Contracts

New Legislation Enacted

Authors: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder, and Xi (Grace) Yang, Of Counsel – Littler

New rules now apply when engaging employees on fixed term contracts. Employers must give every employee engaged under a new fixed term contract a Fixed Term Contract Information Statement (FTCIS). The FTCIS must be furnished when the employee enters into the fixed term contract, or as soon as possible after entering the contract. There are time, renewal and consecutive contract limitations on use of fixed term contracts, subject to certain exceptions. The limitations do not apply to fixed term contracts entered into before December 6, 2023, however the new rules apply when a new fixed term contract is entered into on or after December 6, 2023.

Proposed Legislation Provides for Broad Range of Changes

Proposed Bill or Initiative

Authors: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder, and Xi (Grace) Yang, Of Counsel – Littler

The “Closing Loopholes” Bill still pending before Parliament would implement significant changes to employment law in Australia, including the following:

  • Set binding minimum standards for “employee-like” workers performing digital platform work.
  • Amend the definition of casual employee and provide employees a pathway to change from casual to regular employment.
  • Change the defense to sham contracting (misrepresenting employment as an independent contractor arrangement) to require employers to establish that they reasonably believed the contract was a contract for services.
  • Change the definitions of “employee” and “employer” to include an assessment of the “totality” of the relationship, including consideration of the substance, practical reality and true nature of the working relationship.

Enforcement of Positive Duty to Eliminate Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Legal Compliance

Authors: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder, and Xi (Grace) Yang, Of Counsel – Littler

The Australian Human Rights Commission now has the power to investigate and enforce compliance with the Australia’s Sex Discrimination Act, which requires all employers to take proactive and meaningful action to prevent workplace sexual harassment, sex discrimination, sex-based harassment, and conduct that subjects an employee to a hostile workplace environment on the basis of sex.

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.