Latest News in Workplace Law
Labour seeks path to increase superannuation contributions to 15%
The Albanese Labour Government is using one of its key policy platforms of ‘ensuring dignity and security in retirement’ to explore a pathway that would lift compulsory superannuation beyond its proposed target of 12% by 2025 further to 15%. The proposed increase is not scheduled to apply within the first term of the Labour Government; however, as a highlighted area of policy interest, the Government indicated it would request a Treasury investigation into whether the plan may cause unintentional consequences in the long term. Although it was not a specific Albanese election campaign promise, it forms part of Labour’s broader campaign promises to overhaul industrial relations and ensure that superannuation is paid at the same time as wages. The proposed changes also include allowing employees to bypass the ATO in unpaid superannuation to recover it recovery.
ALP National Platform at paragraph 
New Industrial Relations minister sets out plan for reforms including paid family and domestic violence leave
Newly appointed Industrial Relations (IR) Minister Tony Burke has confirmed that one of the first significant legislative changes to be made at the next sitting of Federal Parliament will include the introduction of paid family and domestic violence leave. The proposed IR legislation for this year will likely also contain legislative changes delivering on commitments made on “same job same pay” measures for labour-hire workers, gig economy reforms, and making wage theft a criminal offence. Labor is also seeking to demolish the Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC), by defunding it through the next Federal Budget process in October.
The proposed legislative changes follow the recent Fair Work Commission’s decision to increase the national minimum wage by 4.6% and 5.2%. Minister Burke also confirmed the Albanese Government remains steadfast in their commitment to boost job security and get wages moving.
Court finds that State Compensation laws do not restrict compensation awarded under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
The Federal Court of Australia (FCA) held that Hawkesbury Race Clubs’ newly appointed chief executive effectively forced its former sponsorship and marketing manager out of her job (because there was no basis for dismissing her). The FCA ruled that the denial of contractual remuneration and bonuses, coupled with unwarranted and extreme micromanagement, effectively destroyed the former manager’s life by causing major psychiatric injury.
This decision is significant in that it confirms the broad scope of the federal jurisdiction over state-based compensation laws. The FCA declared that State Workers’ Compensation laws do not restrict compensation orders under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The finding means that the FCA is not constrained by state laws with respect to the calculation of compensation that can be awarded for past and future economic loss where there have been severe breaches of the civil remedy provisions. Hawkesbury Race Club was fined $180k and ordered to pay costs of around $300k, plus $200K in additional compensation under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
Anti-vaxxer’s unfair dismissal claim fails, but raises questions about discrimination
Whilst upholding her dismissal, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has canvassed whether an employer discriminated against an employee because of the employee’s social origin status as an ‘anti-vaxxer’. Commissioner Johns considered the argument of the employee that the dismissal was discriminatory because she identified as an ‘anti-vaxxer’, which then formed part of a ‘social origin group’ and that her treatment amounted to unlawful discrimination. This is different to most discrimination claims argued in cases involving COVID-19 vaccines, as this discrimination was not argued on the basis of impairment or disability.
The case resulted from the Victorian acting Chief Health Officer implementing the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions in October 2021, which outlined the requirement for specified workers to provide proof of vaccination or face the consequence of being unable to return to the workplace. The employer implemented a compliance policy in the same month. The employee refused to comply and was therefore dismissed as she was unable to return to the workplace and fulfil the inherent requirements of her role. Ultimately, the Commissioner found the directions and the employer’s compliance with them reasonable. While the Commissioner did consider the ‘social origin group’ discrimination argument raised by the employee, he ultimately dismissed the unfair dismissal claim, as the termination was held not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.