The Queensland Government introduced the Industrial Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 (Bill) into Parliament on 23 June 2022. The Bill proposes various amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (QLD) (IR Act) in response to the recommendations of an independent five-year review into the IR Act.
The changes to Queensland’s industrial laws proposed in the Bill include:
This article provides a brief overview of the proposed changes.
There has been a strong emphasis on sexual harassment reforms in various Australian jurisdictions in recent years. The Bill proposes amendment to Queensland’s industrial laws to strengthen protections and expand access to remedies for employees subject to workplace sexual harassment and sex and gender-based harassment. The objective of the amendments is to deter and eliminate sexual harassment and sex or gender-based discriminatory conduct in Queensland workplaces. Key amendments include:
Other than an increase to sexual harassment protections, there are several other amendments being proposed that will change the current landscape of Queensland’s industrial laws.
Introduction of minimum entitlements and conditions for independent courier drivers
There has recently been a strong emphasis on providing greater protections to those individuals working in insecure areas of employment. This Bill introduces a new Chapter 10A into the IR Act which empowers the QIRC to, on application or its own initiative, determine the minimum remuneration and working conditions for independent couriers.
The definition of independent courier in the proposed Chapter 10A captures all drivers of vehicles engaged in transporting goods and are acting as individuals, or members of a partnership, or a company where the individual driving the vehicle is an executive office of the company or a member of an executive officer’s family.
Improvements to Queensland’s employment standards
The Bill also updates Queensland’s Employment Standards (QES), through the introduction of a Chapter 18, part 6 to the IR Act, to ensure personal and parental leave provisions in the IR Act are aligned with prevailing federal standards. This includes the provision of evidence for taking leave, flexibility in how unpaid parental leave is taken including in cases of still birth, increasing the age limit for a child from 5 to 16 years of age for the purposes of adoption-related leave or cultural parent leave, and removing language that implies gendered divisions in parental care.
Enhancing the effective representation of employers and employees by organisations registered under the IR Act
The Bill also amends some terminology used in the IR Act to provide greater clarity about the rights and responsibilities of employee and employer organisations registered under the IR Act to represent employees and employers.
Under the proposed changes, employees and employers remain free to choose whether or not to become a member of an employee or employer organisation, including ineligible or unregulated entities. However, it is made clear that ineligible entities cannot lawfully represent their members’ industrial interests under the IR Act and civil penalties can be ordered against any entity which misrepresents its registration status or ability to lawfully act on behalf of a person’s industrial interests under the IR Act.
Enhancing equal remuneration in collective bargaining provisions
The Bill introduces a new mechanism to further enshrine equal remuneration for work of equal or comparable value in collective bargaining which is a unique feature in Australia’s industrial relations jurisdictions. These changes are set out in Clauses 29-65 of the Bill and include the following:
The proposed changes to the IR Act will have an impact on employees and employers once passed. Most notably, employers will be able to summarily dismiss employees who engage in sexually or sex or gender-based harassing conduct, and sexual harassment matters will be able to be litigated in the QIRC.
Gadens has extensive experience in advising and assisting employers on various sexual harassment matters, including workplace investigations involving allegations of sexual harassment and representing employers in industrial disputes, as well as providing expert and tailored legal advice to employers to meet their obligations.
To enquire how Gadens may be able to assist, please contact Jonathon Hadley, who leads the employment relations team in Brisbane.
If you found this insight article useful and you would like to subscribe to Gadens’ updates, click here.
Jonathon Hadley, Partner
Melissa Sydney, Solicitor