New workplace laws to better protect employees from sex or gender-based harassment or violence have been passed in Queensland Parliament.
Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the Industrial Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 would provide important protections for workers and give effect to the recommendations of the government-ordered five-year review of the laws.
The laws, which were passed in Parliament late Friday, also include improvements to birth-related and parental leave.
Ms Grace said the key reforms included:
- improvement of Queensland Employment Standards
- promotion of gender pay equity in collective bargaining negotiations
- clarification of rules surrounding representation provided by registered organisations for employers and workers
- safeguards to ensure agents appointed to appear in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) act appropriately, and
- enhancement of working conditions and protections for independent courier drivers.
“We’re committed to providing good, secure jobs as our economy continues to grow and I am proud that Queensland is driving the national industrial relations conversation,” Ms Grace said.
“The changes empower the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to conciliate, arbitrate and issue injunctive relief to protect victims of sexual, sex or gender-based harassment.
“The QIRC is also empowered to set minimum conditions and entitlements for independent courier drivers. These changes however will not become operative until the Australian Government amends the Independent Contractors Regulation 2016 just as they have in other states.
“Minimum employment standards now align with federal standards by providing greater flexibility for paid and unpaid parental leave to include adoption, surrogacy or parentage transferred under a cultural recognition order.
“The Bill also provides enhanced birth-related and parental leave, and allows individual parents to allocate childcare responsibilities in a way that works best for their family’s circumstances.”
Queensland will also extend paid domestic and family violence leave to casuals employed under the Queensland industrial relations jurisdiction.
“Casual workers will now be able to access 10 paid days of leave to assist them or their families when escaping domestic violence,” Ms Grace said.
“While collective bargaining has delivered stronger wages and working conditions in exchange for flexible and productive workplaces, we still have gender pay inequality. That’s why we have introduced provisions in the Act to ensure the promotion of gender pay equity in the bargaining process.”
The Bill also clarifies rules around representation for employees and employers under the Act.
“I make no apologies for ensuring the primacy of registered employer and employee organisations as part of our industrial relations framework, as has been the case for generations in Australia’s industrial system,” Ms Grace said.
“Changes provide protections against organisations and individuals who make false and misleading claims about being able to represent the industrial interests of employers and employees under the Act.”
The Act provides an industrial relations framework for Queensland and regulates the state public sector, local government employees and the employees of several statutory authorities.