A number of changes to workplace laws in 2020 will impact on employer obligations and employee entitlements.

It is important for employers to be conscious of these changes in order to protect their businesses and employees going forward.

paid parental leave

Under amendments to the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (Cth) (Parental Leave Act), the government is broadening the pool of eligible new parents able to access the existing 18 weeks’ leave, funded by the Federal Government at the national minimum wage.

How does this impact your business? Well, in circumstances where you have a policy that tops up, or provides entitlements relative to the Paid Parental Leave scheme, such policies may need to be amended.

From 1 January 2020, the Parental Leave Act amends the ‘work test’ which will result in more working mothers being able to access the Government’s Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme.

Previously, to be eligible for PPL a parent must have worked a minimum of 330 hours in 10 of the 13 months prior to giving birth, with no more than an eight week break between two working days.

The Parental Leave Act has amended the work test in the following ways:

  • the allowable break between working days has been extended from eight to 12 weeks; and
  • women are permitted to move their work test period if they have been required to stop work early due to the impact of a workplace hazard upon their pregnancy.

The amendments apply to parents of children born or adopted on or after 1 January 2020.

whistleblowing policies

On 1 January 2020, following a six month ‘grace’ period, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 (Cth) (Whistleblower Act), took effect. This legislation creates an obligation for businesses to implement whistleblowing policies which are compliant with the provisions of the Whistleblower Act.

Our recent Insight on this subject (available here) sets out which businesses will require a whistleblower policy and what the policy will need to include.

workplace manslaughter

In November 2019, the Victorian parliament passed the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and other matters) Bill 2019 (Vic). The effect of this legislation is to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) to include the new offence of workplace manslaughter.

Workplace manslaughter will work to capture employers’ negligent conduct, whether through action or inaction, which results in the death of an employee or member of the public.

For additional information in relation to the new legislation and available penalties, please see our recent Insight here.

annualised salaries

As of 1 March 2020, changes to annualised salary provisions in some modern awards will be implemented.

For further information in relation to the increased obligations of employers, please see our Insight on the issue here.

The key takeaways from that article are:

  • The awards that will be affected include the 19 modern awards that currently contain annualised salary provisions, plus the Horticulture Award 2010 and Pastoral Award 2010, which will soon include annualised salary provisions for the first time.
  • Employers who use annualised salary arrangements should review their employment agreements and prepare to make any variations necessary to ensure compliance with the new regime.

superannuation guarantee

On 1 January 2020, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2019 Tax Integrity and Other Measures No. 1) Act 2019 (Cth) (Superannuation Act) came into effect.

The Superannuation Act:

  • Requires that amounts an employee salary sacrifices to superannuation cannot reduce an employer’s superannuation guarantee charge. Salary sacrificed amounts also do not form part of any late contributions an employer makes that are eligible to be offset against the superannuation guarantee charge.
  • States that in order to avoid a shortfall an employer must contribute at least 9.5% of an employee’s ordinary time earnings base to a complying superannuation fund or retirement savings account. An employee’s ordinary time earnings base is comprised of their ordinary time earnings and any amounts sacrificed into superannuation that would have otherwise been ordinary time earnings.
  • Requires that where an employer has a shortfall, the amount of the shortfall is calculated by reference to their employee’s total salary or wages base. An employee’s salary or wages base is comprised of their salary and wages, and any amounts sacrificed into superannuation that would have been salary or wages, but for the salary sacrifice arrangement.