NFP employers must flex with the times: legal experts

Posted on 06 Feb 2024

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

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A raft of workplace law changes may affect NFPs in 2024.

Our Community’s legal partner Maddocks predicts organisations will need to do their homework in 2024 to keep up with all the developments in workplace law and to ensure they remain compliant.

In its recent report Year in Review: Employment, Safety and People 2023 Edition, its experts suggest that major challenges for organisations in the coming year will be adapting to changes to industrial relations and employment law, rising labour costs, and continuing economic uncertainty.

Lindy Richardson
Maddocks partner Lindy Richardson

Maddocks partner Lindy Richardson said there had been significant changes to employment, industrial relations, discrimination, and work health and safety laws in the past year.

“I think 2024 will be a year when NFPs need to focus on compliance – many changes were introduced over the course of 2023 and the pace of change will continue for some time.”

She said a renewed focus on jobs by the Albanese government meant employers must take greater responsibility for the wellbeing of workers, and review their understanding of working from home, fixed term contracts, pay secrecy provisions, casual employment, labour hire, and gig-economy arrangements, and their relations with unions.

The Maddocks report suggested that workers would benefit from the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act, the Respect at Work Act and the psychosocial hazards amendments to WHS Regulations, but said the Closing Loopholes legislation – passed on December 14, 2023 in a condensed format – would create uncertainty for some organisations.

One example was requests from workers for flexible working arrangements, in a world now used to working from home.

The Maddocks report suggests: “Employers will need to assess requests carefully and on a case-by-case basis, as there is no ‘one size fits all’ in determining the levels of flexibility required on the part of an employer.”

Working from home has advantages, but NFP employers may need to brush up on the latest requirements.

Maddocks has previously provided guidance for the Institute of Community Directors Australia about how NFPs can get more done with hybrid work arrangements, suggesting NFP employers keep a keen eye on productivity, supervision, worker commitment, good communication and workplace scheduling.

The Year in Review also provides guidance on a range of other HR changes, covering:

  • new obligations under the Secure Jobs, Better Pay package of legislation
  • requirements that have followed from the recommendations of the Respect@Work report on sexual harassment
  • what employers should know about psychosocial safety at work
  • changes to laws under the Closing Loopholes legislation, which aims to improve pay and working conditions
  • the impact of “general protection” provisions in the Fair Work Act
  • working on public holidays
  • superannuation provisions
  • redundancies.

Ms Richardson said the Year in Review should be read in the context of the Closing Loopholes changes, which would:

  • allow the Fair Work Commission to consider some labour hire matters
  • increase anti-discrimination protection for workers subjected to family or domestic violence
  • better protect workplace delegates, including requiring awards to include provisions outlining their rights
  • make changes to conciliation provisions involving industrial action.

Statistics compiled by Maddocks show the number of proceedings being tackled by the Fair Work Commission have dipped in some areas.

Unfair dismissal claims – which comprise a third of all FWC applications – were 16% lower than the previous year, while general protection claims dropped 24%. At the other end of the spectrum, anti-bullying claims bucked the trend, with a 14% rise in applications to the authority.

More information

Read in full: Maddocks’ Year in Review

Community Directors Intelligence: More reports about NFP trends you must know

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