JobWatch has regularly advocated for disadvantaged workers by providing submissions informing the Federal and State governments as well as other stakeholders about unfair working conditions and alarming workplace trends, such as workplace violence and workplace bullying. JobWatch has made the following submissions:
Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment on the proposed Fair Work Amendment (Bargaining Processes) Bill 2014 – Click Here
Submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission – Traditional Rights and Freedoms – Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws – Click Here
Submission to the Productivity Commission – Workplace Relations Framework Inquiry – Click Here
Submission to the Senate Education and Employment References Committee on the Impact of Australia’s Temporary Work Visa Programs on the Australian Labour Market and on the Temporary Work Visa Holders – Click Here
Submission to the Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee Inquiry into Portability of Long Service Leave Entitlements – Click Here
Submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission – The Infiltration of Organised Crime Groups into Lawful Occupations and Industries – Click Here
Second Submission to the Productivity Commission – Workplace Relations Framework Inquiry – Click Here
Submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission – Traditional Rights and Freedoms – Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws (Interim Report 127) – Click Here
Victorian Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work – Click Here
JobWatch staff have also appeared before several Senate Reference Committees over the years and continue to highlight unfair workplace practices.
The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017
The Federal Government has recently introduced legislation to extend responsibility for deliberate and serious underpayments to franchisors and holding companies, in the wake of the problems exposed at 7-Eleven.
The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017 increases the maximum fines for serious contraventions by way of underpayments to $108 000, and $540 000 for bodies corporate.
The Bill’s new maximum penalty is 10 times higher than that which would otherwise apply in a normal case.
The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum says that the inquiries into 7-Eleven revealed the systematic underpayment of migrant workers and a practice where some franchisees paid their employees the lawful rate but then coerced them to pay back a proportion of their wages in cash. Records were also deliberately falsified by some employers.
- The most significant changes proposed by the Bill include:
- the introduction of a higher scale of penalties for ‘serious contraventions’ of prescribed workplace laws;
- increased penalties for record-keeping failures in employee records such as pay slips;
- making franchisors and holding companies responsible for underpayments by franchisees or subsidiaries where they knew or ought reasonably to have known of the contraventions and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent them;
- to prohibit employers from unreasonably requiring their employees to make payments, such as demanding a proportion of their wages to be paid back in cash; and
- boosting the evidence-gathering powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman, bringing them into line with those of ASIC, the ACCC and the ABCC.
The Bill has been referred to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee which is due to report on 9 May 2017.
Abolition and replacement of the 457 visa – Federal Government reforms to employer sponsored skilled migration visas
On 18 April 2017, the Federal Government announced that the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457 visa) will be abolished and replaced with the completely new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018.
The TSS visa programme will be comprised of a Short-Term stream of up to two years and a Medium-Term stream of up to four years and will support businesses in addressing genuine skill shortages in their workforce. The programme will also contain a number of safeguards which prioritise Australian workers.
Key reforms include:
- Introducing the temporary skill shortage visa with new requirements, including but not limited to:
- new, more targeted occupation lists which better align with skill needs in the Australian labour market
- a requirement for visa applicants to have at least two years’ worth of experience in their skilled occupation
- a minimum market salary rate which ensures that overseas workers cannot be engaged to undercut Australian workers
- mandatory labour market testing, unless an international obligation applies
- capacity for only one onshore visa renewal under the Short-Term stream
- capacity for visa renewal onshore and a permanent residence pathway after three years under the Medium-Term stream
- the permanent residence eligibility period will be extended from two to three years
- a non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers
- strengthened requirement for employers to contribute to training Australian workers
- the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will collect Tax File Numbers and data will be matched with the Australian Tax Office’s records, and
- mandatory penal clearance certificates to be provided
- Tightening eligibility requirements for employer sponsored permanent skilled visas, including but not limited to:
- tightened English language requirements
- a requirement for visa applicants to have at least three years’ worth of work experience
- applicants must be under the maximum age requirement of 45 at the time of the application
- strengthened requirements for employers to contribute to training Australian workers, and
- employers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold
- Concessions for regional Australia will continue to be available:
- Employers in regional Australia will continue to have access to occupations under the temporary and permanent visas, to reflect their skill needs
- Existing permanent visa concessions for regional Australia, such as waiving the nomination fee and providing age exemptions for certain occupations, will be retained. Consideration will be given to expanding the occupations in regional Australia that are exempt from the age requirement.
- Significantly condensing the occupation lists used for skilled migration visas, including the subclass 457 visa, from 19 April 2017.
The implementation of these reforms will begin immediately and will be completed in March 2018.
Discrimination on the basis of Criminal Record
The number of criminal record checks conducted have increased dramatically over recent years. As a result there is increased potential for discrimination on the basis of a person’s criminal record to occur and JobWatch continues to remain vigilant and to advocate in this area.
The Australian Human Rights Commission revised its guidelines for the prevention of discrimination in employment on the basis of criminal record. The revised guidelines, ‘On the Record – Guidelines for the Prevention of Discrimination in Employment on the Basis of Criminal Record’ are available via the link below.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has also produced an information brochure designed to assist those with a criminal record to avoid being discriminated against. This brochure is also available from the above link.
For further information on discrimination on the basis of criminal record or if you feel you have been discriminated against on this basis you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission Complaints Infoline on 1300 656 419.
Bullying and Workplace Violence
Workplace bullying has been characterised by WorkSafe as ‘persistent and repeated negative behaviour directed at an employee that creates a risk to health and safety’.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) workplace bullying occurs when‘an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or group of workers and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety’.
However, reasonable management action conducted in a reasonable manner does not constitute workplace bullying.
Examples of workplace bullying may include the following behaviours:
- Insulting, abusive or offensive language
- Offensive or harmful initiation practices
- Inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance of lifestyle
- Physical assaults or threats
- Spreading malicious rumours
- Behaviour or language that frightens, humiliates, or degrades
- Overloading a person with too much or too little work
- Setting tasks above or below a person’s skill level
- Isolating or ignoring a person
- Unfair treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements
- Setting unachievable or constantly changing deadlines
- Inappropriate letters, emails, phone calls, text messages or social media
Bullying should not be ignored if it is occurring in your workplace. Workplace bullying creates an unsafe working environment and it is unlawful.
There are a number of practical and legal options available for dealing with bullying in the workplace ranging from talking to the bully or complaining to your employer to applying for a Stop Bullying Order at the Fair Work Commission (if eligible) and complaining to WorkSafe in your State.
Worksafe Victoria has produced guidelines which make recommendations on how workplaces can both prevent and address workplace bullying. A link to ‘Your guide to workplace bullying – prevention and response’ is found below.
If you feel that you are being bullied at work you can call the Worksafe Victoria Advisory Service on (03) 9641 1444 or 1800 136 089 (toll free).
For more information about workplace bullying, please read the below infosheet
Workplace Bullying Infosheet – Click Here
To apply for a Stop Bullying Order, go to the Fair Work Commission website https://www.fwc.gov.au/
To complain about Occupational Health and Safety issues including bullying:
Victoria: Contact WorkSafe Victoria on 03 9641 1444 or 1800 136 089
Queensland: Contact WorkSafe Queensland on 1300 362 128
Tasmania: Contact WorkSafe Tasmania on 03 6166 4600 or 1300 366 322
Worksafe Tasmania has produced 2 guides in relation to workplace bullying. Please find the links below:
Tasmanian Workplace Bullying Prevention Strategy
How to Prevent and Respond to Workplace Bullying
If you feel that you are being bullied at work you can contact the Worksafe Tasmania helpline on 1300 366 322.
Worksafe Health and Safety Queensland have produced numerous resources relating to workplace bullying. In particular, they have produced two webinars. Both are available via the link below:
If you feel that you are being bullied at work you can contact Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on 1300 362 128.
Unpaid Trial Work
Unpaid trial work is widespread in Australian workplaces and although there are no reliable statistics on the extent of this problem it is clear that it is significant. Unpaid trial work can take on different forms such as work experience and internships as well as trials.
It is also becoming apparent that vulnerable workers, such as the young and migrants, are most at risk of exploitation.
In January 2013 a report, ‘Experience or Exploitation? The Nature, Prevalence and Regulation of Unpaid Work Experience, Internships and Trial Periods in Australia’ was released which explores unpaid trial work in Australia.
The report was commissioned by the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman and written by Professor Andrew Stewart and Professor Rosemary Owens of the University of Adelaide Law School and is available via the link below.
Also, in December of 2016 the Department of Employment released a report titled, ‘Unpaid Work Experience in Australia: Prevalence, Nature and Impact’, which was based on national survey results.
If you would like more information about unpaid trial work refer to the JobWatch factsheet on this topic which is found on our publications page. You can also contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.
JobWatch continues to receive pregnancy related discrimination calls which have doubled in percentage terms over the past 10 years. As pregnancy related discrimination calls have continued to increase in number, much more needs to be done to prevent the extent of this type of discrimination and to provide proper avenues of redress. It is apparent from these disturbing trends that further education and campaigning is required to protect working women.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission have produced a booklet, ‘Pregnancy and Work: Know your Rights and Obligations’ which summarises the rights of pregnant women and those with families in detail. The link to this booklet is found below: