Employment Law Update 2017

There are a number of changes to employment law standards which are coming into effect in Australia in the upcoming period. 2017 will see a number of increases to minimum wages under the modern awards and enterprise bargaining agreements. Rises in the minimum wage generally keep pace with inflation and increase at the start of each financial year. Last year, they increased by 2.4% and we are likely to see a similar increase this year.

Employers need to ensure that underpayment of staff does not occur as this can lead to serious penalties imposed by Fair Work Australia for non-compliance with basic employment standards. It is impossible to contract out of the basic awards which are inherent to employment law in Australia. At the moment in Australia, the minimum wage is $17.70 per hour and staff who are 20 or less are entitled to be paid less than this based on a system set out by Fair Work Australia.

Another change which is currently coming into operation is the level of the high income threshold for the bringing of an unfair dismissal claim. If a member of staff is paid less than 138,900.00, it will be much easier for an unfair dismissal claim to be brought and the amount of compensation available will be greater. This is of particular importance when considering the terms of executive employment contracts and whether to dismiss an employee who falls between certain threshold amounts. Recent changes to the threshold amounts means that $69,450 is now the maximum amount of damages for unfair dismissal that can be obtained.

Finally, 2017 ushers in a new fair work information statement which must be given to new members of staff. Actually, this has been a requirement in Australia for some time now but it is not well known that this is in fact a legal requirement when someone begins employment. If an employer fails to meet this requirement there is the capacity for a civil remedy provision to be applied. This can be applied to a corporation, a person, the director of a company or an HR manager.

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