There have been several recent changes to federal employment law that you should know about, applying from 1 January 2013, including:

  1. The federal paid parental leave scheme has been extended to eligible fathers and partners who are entitled to 2 weeks’ paid leave at the national minimum wage (but note that this does not create a new leave entitlement).
  2. Fair Work Australia has changed its name to the Fair Work Commission and its website address has changed to
  3. The time limit for employees to lodge a statutory unfair dismissal claim has increased from 14 to 21 days. However, the time for lodgement of a breach of workplace rights (“adverse action”) claim has decreased from 60 days to 21 days. It will accordingly not be possible for terminated employees to commence an unfair dismissal claim and then later commence an adverse action claim.
  4. Maximum penalties for contraventions of the Fair Work Act have increased and are now $51,000 per breach for a body corporate (up from $33,000) and $10,200 for an individual (up from $6,600).


In other news, you should be aware that the compulsory employer contribution rate will increase to 9.25% from 1 July 2013 and will progressively increase each year to 12% by the 2019 financial year.

But the big thing to keep an eye on is the introduction of an avenue for workers to take workplace bullying complaints to the Fair Work Commission (“FWC”). The federal government introduced legislation on 21 March that has been referred to committee with comments closing on 18 April 2013. The main features of the proposed legislation are:

  1. An application to FWC can be made by a “worker”. This includes employees, contractors, trainees and some volunteers;
  2. At this stage, only constitutional corporations will be subject to the law, ie NOT sole traders, partnerships and some trusts and charitable companies;
  3. Bullying is defined as repeated unreasonable behaviour towards a worker that creates a risk to health and safety and which is not reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner;
  4. If satisfied that bullying has occurred and that there is a risk of it continuing, the FWC can make any appropriate order to stop the bullying. Examples of orders that could be made include:
    • Requiring an individual or group to stop the bullying;
    • Regular monitoring of workplace behaviours by an employer;
    • Compliance with an employer’s workplace bullying policy;
    • Provision of information and support and training to workers;
    1. Review of the employer’s workplace bullying policy.
  5. Breach of an order by FWC leaves a person open to the potential penalties mentioned above.
  6. The FWC will not be able to order reinstatement or compensation.

We will have to wait and see whether the legislation passes the parliament in its current form before we can comment on its full implications. It is quite possible that we will see more changes to the legislation from the government in the lead up to the federal election on September 14.