New changes to workplace relations aiming to improve legislation around pay equity, sick leave entitlements and the minimum wage has been enacted.
The main changes that both employers and employees should be aware of are:
- Minimum wage increase - The minimum wage has increased from $18.90 to $20 per hour effective 1 April 2021.
- Sick leave - The minimum sick leave provisions will be doubled from 5 to 10 days per year from 24 July 2021. But employee's entitlements will not automatically double. The entitlement to the increased days will be added on their anniversary, or entitlement, date. Further, the accumulative amount of sick leave is unchanged. The maximum will not go beyond 20 days except without agreement.
- Fair pay agreements - Fair pay agreements which cover both employees and contractors (yet to be expanded upon) enabling workers to have Union representation during bargaining and mandating that only Unions can initiate bargaining for the first agreement, has been passed in Parliament. Significant challenges are expected to remain in the formation of fair pay agreements with employers having to overcome differences in size, ways of operating, geographic location and economic need, as considerations to reach a fair pay agreement. How such agreements shall function in practice is yet to be seen, but it is reasonable to expect it will follow a similar model as observed overseas (Australia).
- Pay equity - The Pay Equity Amendment Act 2020 has come into force. The legislation aims to address pay equity where an employee predominantly employs one gender. Care workers and early childhood sectors are expected to feel/test the new legislation.
Other legislative changes are, or are soon, expected to come into force. It is reasonable to expect that incremental changes in workplace relations shall continue for some time yet.