Minimum Wage Increase

New Legislation Enacted

On July 1, 2019, employees under the national minimum wage and the modern award minimum wage (and in some cases, employees under a registered agreement) are set to receive an increase of 3% from the first payment period on or after that date. Last year’s increase was 3.5%, which is relatively more than this year’s upcoming increase. This will affect nearly 2.2 million of Australian employees who have payments set under a particular modern award and 180,220 employees who are paid at adult minimum wage rates. We recommend for employers to review their current payment arrangements for employees covered by a modern award and make sure that any increase applicable will be paid from the first full pay period on or after July 1, 2019, as per the new minimum wage rates. This would also include any casual loadings for casual employees or any other loadings or penalties applicable.

Changes, Effective July 1, 2019

New Legislation Enacted

Several changes in the law, affecting businesses, will be in effect as of July 1, 2019, which include: Under the new whistleblower laws, which take effect on July 1, 2019, large Australian proprietary companies are now required to introduce a Whistleblower Policy, with the mandatory content as set out in the Corporations Act 2001. The new whistleblowing laws will cover any disclosures made on or after the commencement of this legislation. Moreover, the high income threshold is set to increase from AUD145,400 to AUD148,900 per year. The maximum compensation for an unfair dismissal claim has also increased to AUD72,700, which is 50% of the high income threshold. Last, the maximum super contribution base for 2019 and 2020 is AUD55,270. This amount was indexed in line with the Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings (AWOTE) each year.

Evidentiary Presumption Where Employer Fails to Keep Employee Records

Precedential Decision by Judiciary or Regulatory Agency

In 2017, the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act) was amended, in part, to create a new evidentiary presumption for a court to presume that an employer has in fact underpaid its workers if the employer failed to keep the relevant employee records (such as pay slips, PAYG certificates, etc.). This amendment was enacted due to a number of high-profile businesses that destroyed employee records to avoid penalties for underpayment of workers. The Federal Circuit Court of Australia is expected to test this new evidentiary presumption in the case of Fair Work Ombudsman v A&K Property Services Pty Ltd & Ors, where nine workers alleged underpayment and the employer failed to produce the employment records, claiming instead that they were “reconstructed.” It is important for employers to ensure that employee records are kept for at least seven years after the termination of employment and employees should be made aware of their rights to access these records.