Key Industrial Relations Considerations After the 2022 Federal Election

May 27th, 2022

Anthony Albanese’s Labor Government has won the federal election over the Coalition. As a new government in charge after many years of a Coalition government, it is important for employers and employees alike consider the way in which this will impact Australia’s industrial relations system. Industrial relations was certainly an area that did grab some attention in the lead up to the election, particularly concerning the National Minimum Wage.

This article will discuss the key issues at the forefront of the new federal government’s mind.

Increase to the National Minimum Wage

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is currently deliberating on an increase to the National Minimum Wage. While the Coalition Government was more reticent to announce a percentage increase they would support, Labor’s Anthony Albanese was quick to say he backed an increase as much as 5.1% in response to an increase in CPI.

Today, he announced their government would be drafting a submission to the FWC concerning their decision and given his history it would not be presumptuous to say he would like to see a sharper increase to reflect a higher cost of living in the past 12 months.

Job Security

As one of its major focuses, Labor is looking to prioritise job security by enshrining it in the Fair Work Act 2009. While currently the details of this are quite vague, functionally this would require the FWC to place this at the apex of any decision making in the face of new forms of insecure work such as gig work.

For businesses like Menulog, Uber, and Deliveroo and their workers, this will certainly be a pressing concern to consider as this current term of government unfolds.

Family and Domestic Violence Leave

The FWC recently announced a draft determination to provide 10 days of paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave for all employees covered by a modern award.

It is not particularly surprising to announce that Labor will look to legislate for this to be enshrined in the Fair Work Act 2009 as an entitlement for all employees, regardless of award coverage. They have previously attempted to pass this previously but been unable to do so from opposition.

Gender Equal Pay

The new Albanese government has promised an extensive array of changes to be made in a bit to provide a more fair and equal workplace for women.

This includes implementing all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work Report, including the aforementioned paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave.

Even further, they wish to legislate it such that all companies with greater than 250 employees much publish reports on their gender pay gap publicly – this may be a means of attempting to shame employers wherein a gender pay gap is quite prominent. They would also seek to prohibit pay secrecy clauses, which are not uncommon in Australia.

They will also look to increase the capacity for the FWC to order increases to minimum pay for workers in low paid industries that traditionally hold a larger proportion of women, such as aged care.

Casual Employees

The definition of a casual employee has received intensive focus in recent years, in large part due to Workpac v Rossato. Before this, the definition of casual employment was dealt within common law, generally characterized as: “the absence of a firm advance commitment as to the duration of the employee’s employment or the days or hours the employee will work”.

In 2021, the Fair Work Act 2009 was amended to include a concrete definition of causal employment.

With the belief this new definition leads to greater casualisation of the workforce, the new Labor government will look to legislate a fair, objective measure of casual employment that will also provide casuals with a clearer pathway permanent employment.

Putting a Cap on Fixed-Term Contracts

The Labor government will seek to limit the number of fixed-term contracts that can be offered for the same role, capping the overall duration of these fixed-term contracts at 24 months. Any contract afterwards would need to be offered in a permanent, ongoing fashion.

A fixed-term contract is only intended for use under certain circumstances – an employer may need someone for a specific project, or they may need to cover an employee on parental leave. While an employer may already be operating in this fashion, this change would make it a legal requirement rather than simply engaging their workers on a best practice basis. 


The new government will look to legislate an entitlement to superannuation under the National Employment Standards (NES) – this is in response to the recommendations of the March 2022 Report from a Senate inquiry into unlawful underpayment of an employee’s remuneration.

Prior to this, unless it was stipulated in their contract, an individual worker did not have the power to pursue their superannuation entitlements themselves – they needed to go through the ATO. This change would give bodies such as the Fair Work Ombudsman the ability to pursue an employee’s superannuation as a basic workplace entitlement.

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