The changes outlined in the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 (Part 1) have come into effect!

Presumptive Legislation – posttraumatic stress disorder

Prior to Christmas, the Fair Work Amendment (Closing the Loopholes) Bill 2023 was amended by the Senate, which opted to split the legislation into two bills, separating less controversial aspects of the bill from more contentious proposals.

Part 1 of the bill was passed on December 7, 2023, and received Royal Assent on December 14, 2023. Part 1 amended the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 to include a presumption for PTSD injuries experienced by first responders, meaning AFP employees (sworn and unsworn) who suffer a PTSD injury will no longer be required to prove their employment contributed to their PTSD injury to a significant degree, rather employment is presumed to have contributed a significant degree to their PTSD injury.

The amendment came into effect on 15 December 2023 and applies to an injury sustained by an employee from that date onwards.

Part 1 of the bill also provided several major changes that are relevant to AFPA members, including:

Union Right of Entry

The requirement for union officials to hold a Fair Work entry permit to assist a Health and Safety Representative has been removed. In addition, the amendments establish specific obligations on individuals such as employers and occupiers. These obligations include allowing officials prompt access to premises and refraining from deliberately impeding or obstructing an official who is assisting a Health and Safety Representative.

Delegates’ Rights

The changes introduce specific provisions granting workplace delegates the authority to advocate for the industrial interests of union members and potential members, even in disputes with their employer. Workplace delegates, who are employees appointed as representatives according to their union’s regulations, are enabled to communicate with members and potential members regarding matters of industrial concern and are granted reasonable access to workplace facilities. Additionally, in businesses that are not considered small employers, delegates will be allocated reasonable time off with pay for required training.

A delegates’ rights term must be included in an enterprise agreement approved by vote on or after 1 July 2024.

Discrimination due to family and domestic violence

This amendment enhances the Fair Work Act’s framework against discrimination to safeguard employees who have experienced or currently may be facing family and domestic violence from any form of discrimination in the workplace. Employers are now legally prohibited from engaging in harmful actions towards employees or prospective employees (such as termination or rejection) based on their past or present experiences of family and domestic violence.

Wage Theft

The amendments target employers who intentionally engage in behaviours that result in the underpayment of their employees but do not extend to purely contractual entitlements.

Any breaches of this legislation, commonly referred to as wage theft, will be considered a serious offence, carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and/or a substantial fine.

Should any member wish to discuss these amendments, please contact the AFPA on 02 6285 1677 or at afpa@afpa.org.au.

Solomons Islands deployment – Determination 1

The AFPA is investigating the working conditions of members deployed to the Solomon Islands at the end of 2021. We are aware that a request was made to enliven the Special Circumstances Composite under clause 1.15 of Determination 1. However, it was unsuccessful. The AFP essentially determined that ‘reasonably and fairly compensated’ by virtue of other allowances they are entitled to on deployment. The AFPA is looking to challenge that decision, and we are of the firm opinion that the civil unrest in the Solomon Islands and the subsequent response by AFP members is perfectly described under clause 1.15 of Determination 1 as giving rise to the payment of the Special Circumstances Composite.

The AFPA is calling for all members deployed under Determination 1 impacted by the events of Nov/Dec 2021 in the Solomon Islands to reach out and discuss their contribution to the challenging of the AFP’s decision. This does not apply to members deployed under the CEC; it only applies to members deployed under Determination 1. Please contact Senior Industrial Officer Ashlea Cameron at legal-industrial@afpa.org.au.