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Industrial relations reform – supporting jobs and our economic recovery

Media Release

The Morrison Government's vital reforms to the industrial relations system are driven by one simple goal – breaking down the barriers to job growth so that we can get Australians back to work.

The reforms were developed after extensive consultation with employer and employee groups who sat down with the Government for more than 150 hours to find innovative solutions that will support struggling businesses, as well as protect and enhance the rights of workers.

The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 is the end product of that process, representing the most substantial reforms to Australia's industrial system since the Fair Work Act was introduced in 2009.

The Bill contains a range of practical measures targeting five key areas of the IR system:

  • Award simplification – Cutting red tape, improving flexibility and job opportunities in 12 Awards covering the retail and hospitality sectors, which were hit hard by the pandemic and saw heavy job losses;
  • Greenfields agreements – Boosting investment in job-creating mega-projects by making them more attractive to global investors through new maximum eight-year life-of-construction agreements, complete with appropriate safeguards and guaranteed wage increases;
  • Casual employment – Ending the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the legal status of casuals, while providing a clearer pathway for those working regular shifts to convert to permanent roles after 12 months if they wish to do so;
  • Enterprise Bargaining – Reversing the decline in agreement making by simplifying the BOOT test and setting a 21-day approval deadline to help drive productivity gains and real wage growth;
  • Compliance and enforcement – Reducing the risk of wage underpayments by helping employers comply with their obligations, providing improved mechanisms to rectify underpayments where they do occur, and protecting employee entitlements by introducing a new criminal penalty with a four-year jail term for the very small number of employers who deliberately exploit their workers.

Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, said the reforms were not radical or driven by ideology. They represent a fair and balanced response to problems that all sides of the debate agree must be fixed in order to give employers the confidence to invest and get Australians back to work.

"The economic supports put in place by the Morrison Government, such as the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments, ensured that the Australian economy fared significantly better than most during the pandemic and there are already positive signs that we are starting to bounce back strongly," the Attorney-General said.

"But our success has not been without pain for many workers who have lost jobs or lost working hours. Regrowing those jobs – especially in some of our hardest hit industries such as the retail and hospitality sectors – is an enormous challenge that our IR reforms will help us to meet."

"I again want thank all of those who participated in a genuine spirit of cooperation during the working group process, which was invaluable in helping to define the problems and inform the solutions that are contained in the Bill to be introduced to Parliament today."

"It should also be said that the introduction of the Bill today is by no means the end of the consultation process, with a Senate Committee likely to examine the legislation in detail over the coming months."

"This is an opportunity for further submissions to be made by all sides of the debate and the Government will be willing to consider any sensible amendments that pass the simple test of being good for job growth."

"The danger is that if those inside and outside the Parliament revert to their traditional ideological corners, these critical reforms could be delayed or even blocked, leaving business without crucial supports and workers without an opportunity to get back into jobs."

The Bills can be viewed on the APH website page Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020.

Detailed fact sheets covering each of the reform measures will be available at Industrial relations reform.