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Things move quickly in the business world. New employment laws are constantly emerging or are reformed, and keeping up to date can be tricky. We have already seen a number of law reforms this year and we are shaping up to have more in the coming months.
Staying on top of these changes is essential to ensuring your business remains compliant. To help you keep up to date, we are going to look at three recent legislative changes and help get you ready for some upcoming changes you need to be aware of.
- Fair Work Information Statement
The first change comes to the Fair Work Information Statement (FWIS). The Fair Work Ombudsman has published an updated version of the FWIS, which came into effect July 2018. The FWIS is an informative guide for employees and details their conditions of employment which forms part of the National Employment Standards (NES). All employers must give each new employee the statement before (or as soon as practicable after) the employee starts their employment. Failing to give an employee the statement (or the current version of it), is a breach of the NES which attracts a civil penalty of up to $12,600 for an individual and $63,000 for a corporation.[i]
You can find an updated FWIS at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/national-employment-standards/fair-work-information-statement
We recommend that employers keep a record of how and when FWIS are provided to each new employee.
- Notifiable Data Breach Scheme
The new Notifiable Data Breach scheme came into effect from 22nd February 2018. This scheme amends the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to introduce mandatory “eligible data breach” notification provisions. If your turnover is more than $3 million per year and you are governed by the Privacy Act 1998 (Cth.), or if you are a smaller business handling sensitive or personal information, then this new legislation can impact your business. [ii]This new law means that businesses who discover they have been breached, or who have lost data, will need to report the incident to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) Privacy Commissioner, as well as notifying affected customers as soon as they become aware of the breach.
Failing to report a data breach, can lead to fines of up to $360,000 for an individual and $1.8 million for businesses.
For more information on how to determine whether this applies to your business or organisation please refer to the OIAC website here: https://www.oaic.gov.au/engage-with-us/consultations/notifiable-data-breaches/draft-entities-covered-by-the-ndb-scheme
- Employee Wages
In July this year, the Fair Work Commission handed down the biggest minimum wage rise since 2010, increasing the national minimum wage and modern aware rates by 3.5%. With the Fair Work Ombudsman cracking down on businesses under paying employees, it is important that employees are getting paid correctly. This year the Fair Work Ombudsman found in Port Macquarie that 48% of businesses were underpaying staff. [iii]
If you are underpaying employees, you may not only have to backpay wages, but you may also be fined. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, the Federal Magistrates Court may impose a maximum penalty of $12,600 for an individual and $63,000 for a corporation, for each contravention. In April this year, a Melbourne based health service was fined $300,000 for the underpayment of first aid workers and was ordered to pay back all underpayments.[iv]
In Claire’s latest blog “How to tell if your Wages are Compliant” she details how you can stay compliant, the components of a basic wage and how to keep up to date and navigate the award interpretations.
- Future Reforms
Here are a couple of upcoming future reforms that you will need to be aware of.
- The Long Service Leave Act 2018 has been passed by the Victorian Parliament. The Act replaces the Long Service Leave Act 1992 (Vic) and introduces changes to the long service leave entitlements of employees and the obligations of employers. The 2018 Act will come into effect on or before 1 November 2018. To see the full reform visit “Legislation Vic”
- On 6 July 2018, a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) handed down a decision finalising the content of a model award clause for up to five days per year of unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence. The clause will be inserted into all modern awards. The FWC intends to issue determinations varying each award, with an operative date of 1 August 2018.
We urge all businesses to ensure you are up to date on your obligations, by using the wide range of free resources available on the Fair Work website and/or to seek advice from HR experts, such as Inspire HQ.
Caleb is a Human Resources Graduate who works with Inspire HQ to help deliver high quality and professional HR & Recruitment services. His friendly, helpful and approachable style tailored with his can-do attitude will help you and your business achieve the best outcomes possible. He holds a Bachelor of Business in Human Resources from Federation University Australia.
Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.