IR Reform - Omnibus Bill 2020

On 9 December 2020, the Federal Government introduced into Federal Parliament the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020, an omnibus industrial relations Bill setting out several key industrial relations reforms to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

Key changes include a definition of ‘casual’ employment, eight-year pay deals for major projects, some relaxation of enterprise agreement requirements, and extension of JobKeeper flexibility. The Bill also includes provisions to criminalise underpayments.

NECA Legal will publish an update should these new provisions become law.

Casual Employment

A new definition of "casual employee" will be inserted into the Fair Work Act. Under the new definition, a person is a casual employee if they are offered employment on the basis that the employer makes no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work for the person, and the employee accepts the offer on this basis. Employers will be required to provide casual employees with a Casual Employee Information Statement to be prepared by the Fair Work Ombudsman and also grants staff the right to elect to convert to a permanent role after 12 months of regular employment, subject to a reasonable right to refuse.

In what will be a significant relief for most businesses, the Bill contains provisions that employers can use casual loading to offset claims for paid leave entitlements and is aimed at preventing casuals “double-dipping” on entitlements.

Enterprise Agreements

The Bill proposes a number of key changes to the agreement making and approval processes including:

  • The timeframe for issuing a notice of employee representational rights will increase from 14 to 28 days after the notification time for the agreement;
  • The pre-approval requirements will be simplified; 
  • Enterprise Agreements will include a term explaining the interaction with the NES; 
  • In applying the better off overall test (BOOT), the Commission will only take into account current patterns or reasonably foreseeable work and not "hypothetical" ones; 
  • Under the proposed changes, a transfer of business does not occur when an employee seeks, at their own initiative, to transfer between employers that are associated entities.

Greenfield Agreements

WA’s resource sector is expected to benefit from the Bill’s extension of the timeframe for greenfield agreements, which are a type of enterprise agreement for new projects. The new eight-year greenfield agreement timeframe for major projects (with capital investment greater than $500m) will remove the risk of industrial action occurring mid-project. The extension of time allowance may also be applied to projects worth at least $250 million, but only if the project is deemed to be nationally or regionally significant.

JobKeeper flexibility 

The current flexibility provisions introduced under the JobKeeper scheme which enable employers to vary employees' duties and locations are proposed to be extended for a period of two years, until March 2023. 

Criminalisation of underpayments       

The Federal Government has also included provisions that criminalise underpayments and employers face up to four years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1.11 million for individuals and a fine of up to $5.5 million for a body corporate, where they are found guilty of “dishonestly engaging in systematic underpayment of employees”.

Disclaimer: This summary is a guide only and is not legal advice. For more information on employers’ legislative obligations call NECA Legal (WA) Pty Ltd on (08) 6241 6129 or email