Changes to workplace laws
The start of the new financial year has seen some important changes to Australia’s employment laws.
Not only do employers need to remain up to date and aware of amendments but they must also ensure they continue to meet their obligations to remain compliant. Employers must check their payroll systems and staff are implementing changes, and that pay slips and records are updated appropriately.
Below are some of the changes that took effect from 1 July 2017:
Changes to the penalty rates in some awards for the hospitality, restaurant and retail industries started from 1 July 2017. The changes to public holiday penalty rates commenced in full from 1 July 2017. In the Restaurant and Fast Food Awards, changes to the evening work and after midnight penalties also started on 1 July 2017.
The changes to Sunday penalty rates are being phased in over three or four years from 1 July 2017, depending on the award and the employment type. Sunday rates in the Restaurant Award will remain unaffected by the changes.
Increase to the National Minimum Wage
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) announced a 3.3 per cent increase to minimum wages, raising the National Minimum Wage to $694.60 per week or $18.29 per hour. The 3.3 per cent increase applies to employees that get their pay rates from the national minimum wage and a modern award. The increase only applies to some registered agreements.
Employers must ensure the new minimum wages are applied from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2017. So if your business pay week is Thursday to Wednesday, then you will need to pay your employees the new rates for all the hours they work from Thursday 6 July.
High-income threshold for unfair dismissals
From 1 July 2017, the high income threshold increased from $138,900 to $142,000 per annum. The high income threshold refers to the maximum earnings an employee can be paid and still be allowed to make an unfair dismissal claim (unless they are covered by an award or enterprise agreement).
The Fair Work Act 2009 deems an employee’s annual rate of earnings as employee wages, any amounts applied or dealt with on the employee’s behalf, such as salary sacrificing, and the agreed value of any non-monetary benefits, i.e., a car, mobile phone, laptop, etc. The high-income threshold excludes reimbursements such as meal allowances or living away from home allowances, statutory super contributions, commissions, overtime (unless it is guaranteed) or incentive-based payments and bonuses.
The maximum financial compensation limit is now $71,000. Employers should exercise caution when calculating whether their employees are earning above or below the high income threshold and whether a modern award or enterprise agreement applies to an employee.