Colin’s Corner

Australia’s New IR Laws

By Colin Toll

The Australian new IR laws are a set of proposed changes to the industrial relations system that the Labor government introduced in parliament in October 2022. The bill, called the Secure Jobs, Better Pay bill, aims to promote wage growth, improve workers’ rights and flexibility, and limit lengthy industrial action. Some of the main features of the bill are:

  • It allows workers in low-paid sectors or with common interests to bargain collectively across multiple employers, with the right to strike if necessary.
  • It bans pay secrecy clauses that prevent employees from discussing their salaries with their colleagues.
  • It gives employees the right to request flexible work arrangements and to involve the Fair Work Commission if their requests are unreasonably refused.
  • It enables the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate disputes over enterprise bargaining agreements when there is no reasonable prospect of reaching an agreement.
  • It reviews the current wage awards and sets minimum standards for pay and conditions in different industries.
  • It provides better protections and faster payments for subcontractors who are owed money by insolvent companies.
  • It increases compensation for firefighters who are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals at work.

The bill has passed the Senate with support from the cross-bench and is expected to become law soon. However, it has faced strong opposition from business groups who argue that it will increase costs, reduce flexibility, and encourage more strikes. The government says that the bill will help address the problem of stagnant wages and improve the quality of work for millions of Australians.

The bill will affect small businesses in various ways, depending on their size, industry, and workforce.