Omnibus Bill provides clarity, flexibility and jobs stimulus

09 December 2020

The Industrial Relations Omnibus Bill, tabled in Federal Parliament today, will improve clarity and flexibility for both employers and employees and stimulate job creation in our state.

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The Omnibus Bill legitimises the casual workforce category by introducing a new statutory definition of casual employment, guided by specific factors (much like the independent contractor test). It reinforces that workers should be entitled to the high rate of casual pay or annual leave loading, but not both. Further, employers will be required to offer full time or part time work to casuals after 12 months if they have worked a regular pattern of hours for the previous six months.

The Victorian Chamber welcomes the two-year extension of the JobKeeper Flexible Work Directions for food, accommodation and retail sectors, which will permit employers to change location or duties to respond to the unique and evolving circumstances that they face, without breaching the relevant award. This will keep more people in their jobs. However, we would like this extended to more awards including other hard-hit sectors.

Employers in the hospitality industry will also be able to offer their part-timers additional shifts at part-time rates. Employees would not be obligated to work the shift/s but it gives the employer greater incentive to put on more staff during busy periods, such as Summer holidays, without having to pay the higher overtime rate. The Bill also seeks to simplify modern awards. Again, we would like this extended to more awards including other hard-hit sectors.

The Victorian Chamber welcomes changes to the agreement making process that will make it easier and more transparent for employers and employees to negotiate and agree while also emphasising the importance that productivity must play in this process if our economy is to successfully recover from COVID-19 restrictions. The 21-day target for agreement approvals is also great news for all parties.

Finally, the Bill introduces criminal offences and penalties for deliberate and intentional underpayment of wages and employers will be prohibited from advertising jobs at rates of pay below the national minimum wage or the relevant wage. The new penalties are welcome. The inclusion in Commonwealth legislation means there is no basis for Victoria or any state to attempt to introduce similar provisions.

The Victorian Chamber’s Workplace Relations Advice Line and consulting services help employers to navigate workplace relations issues including pay rates, entitlements, performance management, claims for unfair dismissal and bullying or discrimination. We can also represent businesses if a claim arises.

 

To be attributed to Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Paul Guerra:

“The Victorian Chamber wants Victoria to be the best place in Australia to operate a business and this Omnibus Bill will help set us on that path. It recognises that our hardest hit industries need a tailored system to incentivise employers to retain and hire staff and offer additional shifts, while businesses that compete unfairly by deliberately underpaying workers are penalised.

“Business and enterprise should be at the centre of our economic recovery because that’s where the jobs will come from, so we need a system that really stimulates job creation and innovation.

“Victoria’s post COVID-19 economic recovery will require employers, employees, industry associations and unions to work together to cultivate an employment environment that makes it easier to hire staff, reduces red tape and uncertainty and ensures that there are employment options available for the diverse nature of our workforce.

"The complexity of our modern award and workplace relations system can be a minefield, and with increased penalties on the table, it is more important now than ever for employers to be informed and understand their rights and obligations.” 

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