Employment, workplace & safety law: Mid-year review

By: John Tuck, Partner & Practice Group Leader Siobhan Flores-Walsh, Partner Nick Ellery, Partner Nick Le Mare, Partner Heidi Roberts, Partner Anthony Forsyth, Consultant Simon Billing, Partner Jane Hall, Partner Jack de Flamingh, Partner Stephen Price, Partner Janine Young, Partner

Submitted by Firm:
Corrs Chambers Westgarth
Firm Contacts:
John Tuck
Article Type:
Legal Article

In our second annual review of employment, workplace and safety laws in Australia, we have focused on the frenetic rate of change in the world of work.

In the past 12 months there has been much talk about the impact of disruptive service providers – like Uber, AirBnB, Airtasker and Service Central – on traditional jobs.

This new ‘sharing economy’ or ‘collaborative consumption’ model is also transforming how Australian and international employers engage with labour and service providers.

As Catherine Livingstone AO, President of the Business Council of Australia and Chairman of Telstra Corporation, recently said:

"Connectivity is changing the power relationships between consumers and companies; it is fragmenting supply chains and disrupting business models. It is changing the nature of work and workplaces, and the shape of cities and urban environments. It is also opening up new possibilities and new frontiers of discovery."

With these developments in mind, we asked leading Australian employer and union representatives – Innes Willox (AiGroup), Steve Knott (AMMA), Catherine Livingstone AO (BCA) and Tim Lyons (formerly with the ACTU) – the following questions:

  • Do we have the right IR system for the workplace of the 2020s?
  • Do our laws help or hinder productivity?
  • Does the system need to change to embrace the jobs of the future and the impact of disruptive technologies?
  • How do we balance Australia’s tradition of strong employment protections, and the jobs the ‘millennials’ will be doing?
  • What do you most want to see come out of the Productivity Commission Review of the Workplace Relations Framework? Will it happen?

Their responses, and those of several Partners in the Corrs Workplace Relations & Safety Team, can be viewed in the video series that accompanies this year’s review.

The Baird Government’s re-election in NSW was the exceptional event in a year of political instability. First-term Coalition governments lost office in Victoria and Queensland, and Federal Government leadership tensions came to a head in early 2015.

Added to the mix were shifting alliances among cross-bench Senators, who made it difficult for the Abbott Government to progress its legislative agenda.

While many reform bills stalled in the Senate, the Government initiated the Productivity Commission Review of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act). However, the Government took possible changes to minimum wage-setting or penalty rates off the table before the Commission could even consider those issues.

This year we again examine the workplace reform debate in the broader context of the major economic indicators: productivity, GDP, employment levels, wages growth and industrial disputes.

We highlight major legislative and policy developments along with workplace and employment law cases from the past year.

There is also a new section on key 2015 developments in work, health and safety law.

The review concludes with a brief assessment of the issues likely to be at the forefront of Australian employment relations in the run up to the 2016 Federal Election.



Click here to download the full review.