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Workplace Review 11.1: The Employment Law News You Need

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The latest issue of Workplace Review, 11.1, demonstrates yet again why the journal is an essential item in the toolkit of any good industrial relations/employment law practitioner. It is rich with information, commentary, and analysis on the latest and most important developments in the field.

Three articles in this issue particularly stand out for their news value.

Dr Ryan Haddrick considers the significance of the High Court’s decision in WorkPac Pty Ltd v Rossato [2021] HCA 23 on the meaning of “casual employee”. Haddrick especially identifies the Court’s “look to the [employment] contract” approach for determining the nature of employment relationships. No bad thing in his view. He argues it is properly the place of Parliament, not the courts, to craft and improve upon employment rights.

Parliamentary action to ensure employees’ rights is a theme of Adam Searle MLC’s article: “Wage Theft: From Underpayments to Epidemic”.  Noting research that possibly around 1 million employed Australians are not paid their full entitlements “with many employers relying on underpaying wages and unpaid overtime”, Searle examines wage theft laws in Queensland and Victoria. With reference to NSW, Searle discusses how an effective “criminal law regime” for wage theft may operate, including by making wage theft an offence of strict liability rather than requiring intent.

In June this year, he introduced into the NSW Parliament the Crimes Amendment (Wage Theft) Bill 2021 (NSW).

The third article of note, by Virginia Ginnane, considers the implications of the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Cth). Arising in response to the Australian Human Rights Commission's, 2020 report, Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces, the Act puts employers on notice to have sexual harassment, gender equality and other relevant policies in place and to provide regular training for employees to guarantee the effectiveness of the extended protections provided by the Act.

The Act’s amendments also extend coverage of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) to Members of Parliament and their staff, Ginnane points out.

There is much else besides in the latest issue of Workplace Review, including its customary focus on the human dimension of IR/employment law, done with a light touch.

By Craig Ryan

Craig Ryan is a Portfolio Editor with the Legal Research team.

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