Parents, carers and older Australian workers will have more power to negotiate flexible working arrangements, under a new bill introduced to Parliament today.
Labor’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay bill will legally require employers to try to reach a flexible working agreement, or face arbitration at the Fair Work Commission.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said while many requests for flexible work were granted, some requests were “unreasonably refused” and workers had no rights to review under the existing laws.
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"Women still carry the main responsibility for caring work and are more likely to request flexible work arrangements," Burke said in a statement.
"In order to access the flexibility they need to manage work and care, they are often forced to drop out of the workforce, or to take lower-paid or less secure employment.
"This plays a major role in widening the gender pay gap."
The changes would mean employers must genuinely try to reach an agreement with eligible workers, including coming up with an alternative option if the request wasn’t possible on reasonable business grounds.
Examples of this might include if the new arrangement would be too costly for the employer, or other employees could not accommodate the new arrangements requested.
If the employer refused, the worker could appeal to the Fair Work Commission.
The changes will benefit parents with children of school age or younger, carers, people with a disability, people aged 55 or older, and those experiencing domestic violence or caring for someone who is.
The changes are part of a new industry relations bill, which will also include changes to multi-employer bargaining.
Burke said the bill was designed to get wages moving.
Real wages are not expected to rise until mid-2024, based on current Treasury forecasts.
Inflation is expected to peak at 7.75 per cent later this year, before moderating to 3.5 per cent through 2023/24.
The bill also bans pay-secrecy clauses so companies cannot stop employees from talking about their pay if they want to.