Calls for clarity after workplace law change confusion

Businesses are asking to be kept in mind as the federal government mulls a shake-up of employment laws.

The “same job, same pay” legislation will plug a gap that allows businesses to negotiate an agreement with workers, then pay labour hire a different rate.

But draft legislation has not been publicly released and Employment Minister Tony Burke has hit back at critics saying they couldn’t seriously come out against the reforms when they haven’t seen the detail.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar said businesses had been actively engaged with the government but still needed to understand the full impact of the changes.

“Of course, we don’t expect to reach an agreement on every point, but it is important that the government does heed the practical concerns of the impact of its policies,” he told AAP in a statement.

“It will be critical to ensure that the parliament has every opportunity to comprehensively review the government’s legislation and to understand the impacts on job creation and small business.”

Independent senator David Pocock, whose vote the government needs alongside the Greens for the bill to pass, said it was “a really strange way to make big changes where you’re essentially hearing concerns but you don’t actually know any of the detail”.

“With legislation, you’ve got to be looking at the actual detail, not the big principles, because that’s where the issues are,” he said in Canberra on Monday.

The ACT senator held a near 100-person strong business roundtable to consult on the reforms.

He said there were concerns about the blanket approach the legislation would take across all sectors instead of targeting problem areas.

A spokesman for Mr Burke said the government continued to undertake “exhaustive consultations” with business groups and unions to strike the right balance and avoid unintended consequences.

He said the legislation would be introduced “in the normal way” and parliamentarians would have plenty of time for scrutiny.

“The government is determined to close the loopholes that undermine workers’ wages,” he said.

“Our upcoming changes will give casual and gig workers a better deal, criminalise wage theft and stop the exploitation of labour hire workers.”

Business groups have raised concerns the legislation would undercut experience by forcing employers to pay someone with decades in the sector the same as the new kid on the block.

Mr Burke has rubbished the claim.


Dominic Giannini
(Australian Associated Press)


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