October 4, 2022

The 4 Jobs Summit issues likely to impact your workplace

The new Albanese-led Labor Government promised to make employment one of its major priorities. Central to this promise was its recent Jobs Summit, in which unions, employer groups and others came together to discuss and – hopefully – address many of the issues impacting Australia’s workplaces right now.

We look at the four issues employers need to be across as a result of the Summit.

1. A change in bargaining

The relative decline in wages has been a major issue affecting Australian employees for some time. Even though the economy has been in a state of consistent growth for 30 years (except for the pandemic), workers haven’t always seen their wages go up.

In fact, despite strong employment figures, wage decline actually seems to be gathering pace, with the average Australian’s real wage falling 2.5% over 2021.

Employers and unions both agree that the current system of enterprise bargaining has failed to deliver the right ingredients to address this wage decline. However, they’re offering different solutions to fixing it.

The ACTU wanted to see multi-employer bargaining introduced, which would mean negotiating with several employers at once rather than on an individual basis. Employers groups opposed this approach and wanted further talks.

The government has backed the unions and will begin introducing legislation to support the change.

2. Better off overall test also overhauled

Unions and employer groups found common ground when it came to the ‘better off overall’ test. This is the test the Fair Work Commission uses when assessing an agreement to make sure a worker is better off under its terms compared to those of the relevant Award. 

All parties agreed the test, which was introduced by the Rudd Labor government, was unnecessarily complicated. Changes will include giving the FWC more flexibility in applying the test, as well as removing the need to it consider hypothetical scenarios.

3. Gender equality on the agenda

Female participation in Australia’s workforce is significantly below male participation. The latest data shows that 71.0% of workforce-aged men participate in the labour market compared to 62.3% of women. The well-publicised gender pay gap is also widening, with the latest data showing a 14.1% difference between men’s and women’s wages.

In response, unions and employers agreed that childcare was a priority. Many called on the government to bring forward its pledge to further subsidise childcare (one of its election promises). Currently, that won’t happen at least until after the October Budget.

Beyond this, many are arguing for further discussion on ways to make work more flexible and accommodating to women, who still often find themselves responsible for the lion’s share of family and domestic duties. This is likely to be an area that receives considerable attention over the next few years.

4. More migration

You only have to walk through any Australian shopping centre to see the effects of our current workforce shortage – with help wanted signs now adorning many stores. However, this same problem permeates virtually every sector, and employers especially wanted something done about it

In response, the government has agreed to temporarily lift Australia’s migration quote from 160,000 to 195,000. To support developing local skills, it has also agreed to increase the number of fee-free TAFE places by 180,000.

So what can you do now?

Our employment sector is likely in for a shake-up over this term of government, and the Jobs Summit points the way to the direction that’s likely to take.

Employers should make sure they stay across the detail and adjust to the changing employment landscape. 

Want to know more?

If you’d like to know more about the Jobs Summit and how it impacts your workplace, get in touch.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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