On 15 September 2017 the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 (the Act)took effect, implementing the Government’s commitment to protect vulnerable workers. Emily Shoemark, Senior Associate at Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, discusses the 6 big changes to the Act:

1. Increased penalties

There are increased penalties for ‘serious contraventions’, which occur when the employer is knowingly in breach of an obligation under workplace law and such conduct is part of a systematic pattern affecting one or more people. The increased penalties apply to contraventions of the National Employment Standards, Awards, Enterprise Agreements, Workplace Determinations the national minimum wage order, and other certain employer obligations.

2. Increased powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO)

The FWO now has the power to apply to the AAT for a ‘FWO notice’ to be issued to any business or person if the FWO reasonably believes that the individual or business has information or documentation which would assist them in their investigations. Failure to comply is a serious contravention of the Act and as noted above, penalties apply for non-compliance. The Act has also introduced new penalties for providing false or misleading information to the FWO.

3. Extension of liability on employers

If a franchisor or holding company has a significant amount of control or influence over their franchisees or subsidiaries, they can now be held liable if the franchisee or subsidiary does not comply with employment law and standards. Unless the franchisor or holding company has taken reasonable steps to prevent the contravention, then they also risk being penalised.

4. Banning “cashback” arrangements

The Act now expressly prohibits payment by employees to an employer or related person for the benefit of the employer or business. This includes payment from prospective employees (i.e. payment to secure employment). It includes any monies from the employee, not just payment from their wage.

5. Crack-down on breaches of record-keeping and pay slip obligations

Under the Act, employers will now be committing an offence when making false or misleading employment records or payslips, with fines for such breaches tripling from what they were previously. In addition, employers will now receive double the previous fines for failing to keep detailed records or failing to issue payslips.

6. Burden on employers to disprove allegations of misconduct

Under the Act, there is now a reverse onus of proof on employers to disprove any allegations of misconduct made against them. That is, if an employer is alleged to not be meeting record-keeping standards, pay slip obligations or are otherwise in breach of their employment law obligations with respect to these two matters, and they do not have a reasonable excuse for such conduct, then it is up to them to disprove the allegations of misconduct.

How can Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers help you?

As an employer, if you have any concerns about compliance with employment obligations contact Snedden Hall & Gallop today on (02) 6285 8000 or by email here. You can find out more about our Employment Law team.

Emily thanks Paralegal Amanda West for her contribution to this blog.