Balancing the scales with employment amendment

Each successive Government wants to show the Australian people that they advance Australia fair and that, despite perceived party standing points, their Government unlike any before upholds an egalitarian system.

The best way to prove their fairness is to introduce changes that affect all their subjects. Favouritism in families isn’t popular and nor with Governments.

You’ll recall the controversial cut of penalty rates for the employees in the low-paid hospitality, fast food, pharmacy and retail industries.

To balance the scales, the Government has now introduced a change which will affect the big bad employers.

The Crimes Amendment (Penalty Unit) Bill 2017 amends the Crimes Act 1914 and increases the amount of the Commonwealth penalty unit from $180 to $210.

Penalty units only apply where a person or company has committed a Commonwealth offence which includes contraventions of the Commonwealth legislation, The Fair Work Act (Act).
The increase to the penalty unit value will only apply to offences committed after the amendments come into force and will not impact on current proceedings for Commonwealth offences.

Come July 1, 2017, employers found in breach of obligations to its employees under the Act will now be up for greater financial penalties for each contravention.

Further on 1 July 2020, the figures will be automatically indexed against the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and further indexed every three years thereafter.

Currently, an employer found in breach will be liable for a maximum penalty of $54,000 for each breach and an individual, a maximum penalty of $10,800 for each breach.

With this increase, the maximum penalty will be $63,000 for an employer body corporate and $12,600 for an individual.

What individuals are we talking about? Any individual found to be involved in the breach of the Act’s obligations, be they managers, human resources manager, line manager, general counsel, or a director or officer of the company.

For example, if the Court finds that the employer company breached its obligations and that three managers were involved in that breach, the collective damage would be to the sum of $100,800.

Section 539(2) of the Act lists the maximum penalty for a breach of specific sections as 60 penalty units.

Examples of some of those breaches include contravening the National Employment Standards (NES): the 10 minimum employment entitlements that have to be provided to all employees.

The national minimum wage and the NES make up the minimum entitlements for employees in Australia.

An award, employment contract, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement can’t provide for conditions that are less than the national minimum wage or the NES.

It must include:

  • a modern award
  • an enterprise agreement
  • a bargaining order
  • a workplace order
  • a National Wage Order
  • an equal remuneration order
  • payment of wages provisions
  • workplace rights provisions