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July 20, 2024

Workplace Legal Landscape in Australia – An Overview

workplace legal landscape Australia

The Australian courts handle thousands of labor-related cases each year. This ranges from cases involving unfair dismissals, worker deductions and entitlements, unsafe workplace environment, and many others.

For that reason, it is important for the government to constantly update their laws, forcing them to be dynamic and to adapt to shifting trends and needs.

In recent years, there have been radical changes in the workplace legal landscape in Australia, with many enhancing worker’s rights as well as promoting equality among the workforce.

Familiarizing yourself with these changes, for both employers and employees, can help promote a better working environment and clarify “grey area” policies that were not as clear before.

With these new laws in place, employees can better know their rights and companies can properly adhere to regulations and avoid future litigation.

Here are just some of the major changes in the workplace legal landscape that you should know about.

Recent Changes in Australian Labor Laws

The changes listed below are some of the most recent changes in the legal workspace landscape. Most of these were filed or amended from 2023 to the first few months of 2024.

The list provides a brief overview about what these changes are about, and how it will impact workers and employers alike.

Defining Worker vs. Independent Contractor Employment Status

Differentiating between workers and independent contractors has been a challenge in Australia. With recent decisions made by the High Court of Australia, this is now a thing of the past.

Whereas previously, the actual working arrangement assessed is used as the basis of a worker’s employment status, disregarding what it explicitly written in the contract.

With the recent changes, a well-written and clear contract explicitly mentioning that a person is an independent contractor and not a directly hired worker will stand.

This decision applies even for those previously categorized as a worker, for as long as a contract is still in effect.


The Australian Human Rights Commission released the Respect@Work Report that provided recommendations to promote a safer workspace, many of which have already been put into law.

The scope of these changes mandate additional responsibilities for employers to prevent sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Implemented on June 6, 2023, laws that aim to provide better support for workers that request for flexible work arrangements.

This applies for regular workers facing difficult times as well as having special emphasis on those who are pregnant.

The law also applies measures to prevent abusive or threatening behaviour related to said requests. Likewise, policies regarding filing, approving, and refusing requests has also been streamlined.

Limiting Fixed-Term Contracts

The Australian government, through the Fair Work Ombudsman, has clarified last December of 2023 the limits regarding fixed-term contracts.

The premise of this is to ensure job security and stability for workers. This also prevents employers from circumventing superannuation policies in the country.

Based on the new mandates, fixed-term contracts are limited to no more than two renewals. This also applies to contracts that exceed two years.

Protecting Worker Entitlements Bill

The Protecting Worker Entitlements Bill strengthens the rights of workers with regards to their entitlements and benefits.

Key areas in this bill include more flexible parental leave, specifically when it comes to flexibility on when to take these leaves.

The bill also guarantees superannuation contributions from employers, which guarantee that workers will have adequate and stable sources of income during retirement.

Enforcement of Gender Pay Equity

The Fair Work Commission, through the Closing Gender Pay Gap Bill of 2023 aims to, as the name implies, close the gap of pay between men and women in the workplace.

To help ensure equal or comparable wages based on value and not on gender, the bill requires that businesses with over 100 workers disclose pay gaps, if any, to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, or WGEA.

Pay Secrecy

The FWC has also pushed for regulations regarding pay secrecy policies inside companies. This legislation came into effect last December of 2022.

Under the new mandate, policies that restrict or prohibit workers from disclosing their wages will no longer be in effect, even if they are written in contracts that the workers have signed.

The goal of this regulation is to ensure a safe space to discuss wage concerns as well as to help prevent wage inequality, especially when gender pay is concerned.

Regulations Protecting Migrant Workers

Migrant workers make up a good chunk of Australia’s workforce. The Fair Work Legislation Amendment Act is one legislation that helps protect the worker rights of this demographic.

Under the Migration Act of 1958 and further enhanced in July of 2023, the amendment makes it clear that migrants are subject to the Fair Work Act, similar to other workers, and are thus eligible for the same entitlements and benefits.

This applies regardless of the status of the migrant worker, whether they have work rights or not, or whether they are even allowed in the country legally.

Worker Deductions

This change simply enhances policies regarding what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to worker deductions.

The policy lays out proper guidelines that ensure fair worker payments, which also includes deductions that are clear, transparent, reasonable, and legal in the eyes of the law.

This policy also clearly lays out the situations where in workers required to have amounts deducted from their wages or when workers need to pay out of pocket to employers.


As you can see, the legal landscape for the workplace in Australia has been changing constantly. As both workers and employers, it is our responsibility to stay up to date with these shifts.

For those requiring labor-law related assistance or for those with inquiries, companies such as https://www.lawyer.com.au/ has the expertise and resources to assist you with your needs.

Keep yourself updated with these evolving laws and policies and avoid litigation that can cost you time and money.

For employers, familiarize yourself with your rights to ensure that you are properly compensated and treated in the workplace in accordance with existing Australian laws.

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