"The 'protecting worker entitlements' legislation will implement further significant changes to workplace relations laws that employers will now need to grapple with," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association, Ai Group, said today.

"The legislation certainly introduces less controversial changes than the radical and economically reckless amendments that appear to be on the cards for later this year. Nonetheless the changes are far from innocuous and several certainly won't be welcomed by industry.

"The changes will deliver a much greater ability for employees to take parental leave in an ad hoc way, including as single day absences, rather than in a continuous block.

"Industry has been largely supportive of increased flexibilities that help parents stay in the workforce, including by giving employees better options for combining work and care where this can be accommodated. It is nonetheless disappointing that the Government didn’t respond to this constructive approach by making requested modest and practical amendments to require employees to provide a reasonable period of advanced notice of the dates that they intend to take the new leave. This would have been a sensible change that would have helped employers manage staff absences without watering down the flexibilities.
"The amendments also make change relating to superannuation obligations that will let unions sidestep the ATO in pursuit of claims for unpaid entitlements. As a consequence, it means that businesses will be able to place far less reliance on guidance from the ATO on the application of our all too complex superannuation laws.

"The change to rules around payroll deductions will also make it easier for unions to obtain increases to their fees through deductions from employee pay by removing a current requirement that employees need to agree to the exact amount of such deductions.

"The legislation significantly increases entitlements for casual employees under a portable long service leave scheme. The amendments are purportedly directed at addressing a KPMG review of the scheme that recommended changes to ensure casuals are not treated less favourably than other workers but in reality go well beyond this to deliver very generous increases in entitlements.

"Frustratingly, the Government has cherry picked one recommendation by KPMG that is supported by unions but has not yet implemented a number of other crucial changes that would address industry concerns over real problems with the scheme. We hope and expect that the Government will now turn to also urgently addressing issues of importance to employers. It needs to start taking a more balanced approach.

"The new legislation is only the second of three tranches of amendments to industrial relations laws and comes as industry is still playing catch-up on the sweeping changes introduced last year, which included the introduction of multi-employer bargaining. The Government needs to be mindful of the very significant burden it is imposing on employers through waves of changes to employment laws. If it presses ahead with the kinds of further amendments it has foreshadowed later this year it needs to adopt a much more reasonable approach to affording employers time to implement the changes," Mr Willox said.

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