The Federal Government has passed changes to workplace laws

The Government has passed changes to wages laws through the Senate.
Workplace laws

The Government has passed changes to wages laws through the Senate.

The Government’s Bill includes changes designed to reduce the gender pay gap and steps to support workers to collectively negotiate pay rises with their employers.

The changes were supported by the Greens and Independent Senator David Pocock, who gave his support after the Government agreed to take new measures to consider the adequacy of welfare payments.

What the Bill does

The Bill makes changes to the Fair Work Commission (FWC). That’s a tribunal which sets minimum and award wages and also oversees pay negotiations between employers and employees.

The Bill will direct the FWC to consider job security and the gender pay gap in its decisions. It also strengthens employee rights to compensation from sexual harassment, bans ‘pay secrecy’ clauses in employment contracts, and requires employers to “genuinely try” to accommodate flexible work requests.

The Bill also aims to increase the use of “enterprise bargaining”. That’s a negotiation process between an employer and their employees, who may be represented collectively by unions. There is evidence bargaining leads to higher wages.

The Bill aims to reduce barriers to the use of bargaining in sectors with low unionisation or with many small employers. Business groups and the Opposition oppose this, arguing it will burden small businesses and worsen inflation.

Pocock agreement

The Bill was only able to pass with the support of Independent Senator David Pocock. Last weekend, he announced he would support the Bill after securing a series of changes. He said he was satisfied the bill would help people “receive long overdue wage rises”.

Employment Minister Tony Burke said the changes improved the Bill but emphasised “every section of the Bill is still there.”

Welfare review

Pocock also secured an agreement to set up an independent advisory committee to provide public advice to the Government on the adequacy of welfare payments before every Federal Budget.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said this was consistent with the Government’s previous promise “that each and every budget that Labor hands down will always give consideration” to welfare adequacy.

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