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Industry reacts to ‘closing loopholes’ amendments

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The Federal Government has introduced 81 amendments to the 2023 Closing Loopholes Bill, which was originally introduced in September.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke introduced the amendments to the legislation in the House of Representatives yesterday.

The proposed changes include:

  • clarifying the closing the labour hire loophole measure to ensure service contracting is excluded
  • clarifying the definition of casual employee, so that an employee who has a regular work pattern can be a casual employee if there is no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work, and ensuring penalties will not apply to employers for mistakenly misclassifying employees
  • additional guardrails to clarify how the Fair Work Commission (FWC) should take into account the unique nature of digital platform work when setting minimum standards for gig workers
  • establishing minimum standards for employee-like workers in the gig economy in a fit-for-purpose way without disrupting users and workers who want to access these services, or turning contractors into employees.

As reported by The Australian Financial Review, Burke also made a deal with the Greens to criminalise superannuation underpayments and to stop employers from using new arbitration powers to reduce their workers’ conditions.

Burke told Parliament that the closing loopholes amendments were “practical reforms” made in response to stakeholder consultation. So far, the amendments have seen a mixed response.

AREEA chief executive officer (CEO) Steve Knott welcomed the exclusion of contracting businesses delivering services from the bill, which the union successfully campaigned for last week.

“AREEA’s multi-factor test provides more certainty than a definition of labour hire, and gives service contractors five clear criteria to rely upon to demonstrate their service is not labour hire,” he said.

However, Knott raised concerns about the amendments tabled in Parliament yesterday, particularly the FWC’s jurisdiction being expanded to consider joint venture and “common enterprises”, and making “multi-employer” orders that capture several employers supplying labour to a host business through one application.

“The service contractor exemption will apply equally to these new processes, but AREEA’s firm position is applications should be considered carefully by the FWC on a case-by-case or employer-by-employer basis,” Knott said.

“Service contractors should not be roped into proceedings that may involve traditional labour hire companies or attempts to cover all employers operating at one site under a common order.”

AREEA will continue consulting with members to represent their views with the Federal Government about these new concerns.

Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) CEO Tania Constable said the amendments have increased complexity and ambiguity.

“Rather than narrowing the intended focus, the amendments actually broaden the reach of Same Job, Same Pay, targeting even more businesses and more employees,” she said.

MCA is currently leading a $24 million campaign against the reforms, which is backed by major miners such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Glencore.

The bill’s 81 amendments are expected to pass in the House of Representatives this week but won’t be voted on in the Senate until around February 2024.

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