30 March 2023

Government to present new Protecting Worker Entitlement Bill measures to Parliament

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Tony Burke

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke. Photo: Facebook

The Labor Government will this week present additional measures of its Protecting Worker Entitlements Bill to Parliament as it seeks to make it easier for employees to take unpaid parental leave.

A 28 March release from Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke says the measures are a result of recommendations from the 2022 Jobs and Skills Summit, which said parental leave needed to be fairer, more flexible and more generous.

The changes will increase an employee’s entitlement to flexible unpaid parental leave from 30 days to 100 days.

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It also says pregnant employees will be able to take some of their flexible unpaid parental leave starting six weeks prior to the expected date of birth, and will also remove restrictions that currently prevent couples from taking more than eight weeks of unpaid parental leave at the same time.

“It means more choice for families in how they take leave from work,” the release reads. “This will encourage parents to better share caring responsibilities in their child’s early years, which in turn promotes gender equality.

“A parental leave system that empowers the full and equal participation of women is good for business, good for families and good for the economy. Parental leave is a proud Labor legacy and we’re continuing to build on it as we work towards gender equality.”

The Bill will also see new measures added to give temporary migrant workers greater certainty about their workplace rights.

“As a result of this change, visa workers will be left in no doubt they have the same rights and protection as other Australians,” Minister Burke said. “This is an important step in reducing the opportunity for these workers to be exploited.

“Temporary visa workers may have poor knowledge of their workplace rights or may be fearful about seeking help about pay and conditions and enterprise agreements, superannuation and workplace safety. Too often, these vulnerabilities are exploited by unscrupulous employers.”

The change gives effect to recommendation 3 of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce report, which this government has committed to implementing in full, and will clarify that migrant workers are entitled at all times to the same workplace protections as everyone else under the Fair Work Act 2009. Visa holders who have been underpaid or exploited will also have greater confidence to seek assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman or other government agencies.

“Temporary migrant workers make an essential contribution to our economy and society, and are entitled to the same workplace rights and protections as Australian citizens and permanent residents,” Minister Burke said.

The new measures added to the Protecting Worker Entitlements Bill will also add a provision to the Coal Long Service Leave Act, which will see casual workers have their hours counted towards their long service leave. Previously, the Act limited the number of hours miners were provided towards long service leave to 35 per week.

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