Submission to the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Inquiry

October 26, 2023

Work and Workers

In Australia, the concept of the fair go remains one of our most enduring principles, saturating our cultural and political discourse. It is a concept so emblematic of our nation, where fairness, egalitarianism, and mateship shape our national character. It has permeated Australian industrial relations, from the 1907 Harvester Decision to the 2022 Aged Care Work Value Case.

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the FW Act) took this notion and built around it ‘a new workplace relations system ready to meet the needs of this nation in the 21st century’. Key to this was the inclusion of a fair and comprehensive safety net: a set of minimum employment conditions, which cannot be stripped away.

Today, too many workers find themselves excluded from this safety net, falling through loopholes in our workplace laws. This Bill is not radical. This Bill is not about pay back. This Bill is only concerned with fairness.

Our submission focuses on amendments proposed in the Bill which ensure that working people have access to the benefits of our workplace laws. These are the proposed reforms relating to casual employment, and defining employment relationships. Getting these definitions right is vitally important. Without a strong foundation where workers are classified by the work they do, and not by the label they are given, working people will continue to fall through the gaps.

Per Capita is fully supportive of the reforms relating to casual employees and is broadly supportive of the reforms relating to defining the employment relationship. This submission raises some concerns with the latter and suggests some adjustments to the Bill.