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Closing Loopholes – Key Changes to Workplace Laws You Should Know!

This article is sponsored by Fair Work Ombudsman

The Australian Government have passed new workplace laws as part of its ‘Closing Loopholes’ legislation. The changes take effect at different times between December 2023 and August 2025.

To learn more about the changes, you can access the full list of changes in the Closing Loopholes timeline of changes on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO) website. The FWO will also host a webinar on the changes on 12 June 2024. Visit the FWO webinar page to register and find out more.

While there are many changes being made, there are a few changes that might affect international students while working in Australia. Read about these changes below.

Changes to casual employment

On 26 August 2024, the existing definition of ‘casual employee’ in the Fair Work Act will be replaced with a new one.

The new definition says that an employee is a casual only if:

  • there isn’t a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work, factoring in the real substance, practical reality and true nature of the employment relationship
  • the employee is entitled to be paid a casual loading or a specific pay rate for casuals.

Employees engaged as casual employees remain casual until their employment status changes.

For more information on the new definition, and information about new pathways to permanent employment, visit Casual employment changes.

Changes for independent contractors

If you’re working or looking to work in the gig economy (ie. ride share or food delivery apps), you may be engaged as an independent contractor. The following changes may be relevant.

Independent contractors will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission if they think their services contract contains an unfair contract term. The Fair Work Commission can now deal with disputes about unfair terms in a services contract.

There will also be new minimum standards to protect independent contractors performing work on digital labour platforms (employee-like workers) and independent contractors in the road transport industry, also known as regulated workers. The Fair Work Commission can now set minimum standards for regulated workers and help resolve disputes.

These changes for independent contractors will be happening on the 26 August or an earlier date set by the Australian Government.

For more information, visit Independent contractor changes.

New rules for labour hire workers

From 15 December 2023, employees, their representatives and host employers can now apply to the Fair Work Commission for a regulated labour hire arrangement order. When an order applies, labour hire employees will need to be paid at least the same rate of pay they would be paid under the host employer’s enterprise agreement (or other workplace instrument). However, this change does not apply to small businesses and their employees.

For more information, visit Labour hire changes.

Right to disconnect

Under ‘Right to Disconnect’ laws, employees will have the right to refuse to monitor, read or respond to contact (or attempted contact) from an employer or third party outside their working hours, unless that refusal is unreasonable.

This does not prevent employers from contacting or attempting to contact employees outside of their normal working hours – it simply provides protection from adverse action for employees who ‘reasonably switch off’.

These changes start on:

  • 26 August 2024 for non-small businesses
  • 26 August 2025 for small businesses (employing less than 15 employees).

For more information, visit Right to disconnect.

Contact FWO

You can get in contact with the FWO via the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94, or for Translating and Interpreting services call 131 450, you can also register for My Account.