Labor’s controversial industrial relations bill passed parliament on Friday – the last sitting day of the year.
Industry groups have been opposed to the bill, and in particular, multi-employer bargaining, which in some cases will mean that employers are required to bargain with other employers for an enterprise agreement that covers all of their workforces where the Fair Work Commission (FWC) determines that employers have commonality. This is most likely in sectors such as aged care and child care where employees provide a similar service regardless of who they work for.
Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees are excluded from multi-employer bargaining and those with an existing enterprise agreement in place are also excluded.
It is a win for the Albanese government who campaigned on the promise of providing Australian workers with “a better deal and better future”
Other key elements of the bill include a prohibition on any terms where an employment agreement states that an employee is not able to disclose their pay details. It will be a workplace right that allows employees to disclose their pay arrangement with other employees.
Employees will also be able to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act, allowing the FWC to arbitrate and decide whether a business has to grant flexible work arrangements based on the circumstances of an employee.
A joint release by Prime Minister Albanese and Tony Burke, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, heralded the bill as an important plank in their strategy to lift wages, secure jobs, and close the gender pay gap.
They also pointed to a second tranche of workplace relations reforms next year to close loopholes that are undermining job security and growth.