The Government has split the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023 (Closing Loopholes Bill) in two, following a deal reached with the Greens and the crossbench to pass measures including criminalisation of wage theft and same job, same pay for labour hire workers.
As part of the surprise deal, the following key measures were approved by the Senate in a vote today (being the last parliamentary sitting day of the year):
- closing the labour hire loophole, by providing for same job, same pay for labour hire workers;
- criminalising intentional wage theft;
- strengthening protections against discrimination, including by preventing adverse action against employees subject to family and domestic violence;
- closing the "loophole" in which large businesses claim the small business redundancy exemption to avoid redundancy payments;
- better support for first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1998;
- expanding the functions of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to include silica;
- amending the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth), including to introduce the offence of industrial manslaughter.
The balance of the measures previously proposed as part of the Closing Loopholes Bill will be contained in a separate statute, The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No.2) Bill 2023 (Closing Loopholes Bill No 2), which will include amendments dealing with more complex and controversial measures, such as:
- casual employment;
- definitions of employment;
- regulated workers (including minimum standards for gig economy and road transport industry workers);
- intractable bargaining workplace determinations;
- sham arrangements, and more.
The Closing Loopholes Bill No 2 will be debated in the new year.
While the amendments passed today have been described as some of the less controversial ones, for employers who utilise the labour hire workforce, the changes will likely be significant.
Employers should watch this space and continue to monitor the passage of the amended Closing Loopholes Bill closely, and prepare for the progress of the Closing Loopholes Bill No 2 to ensure their business is equipped to respond to the changing industrial landscape in the new year.