The government has committed funding to support working parents, tackle gender discrimination and health and safety issues in workplaces.
Addressing Silicosis and Silica-Related Diseases
The Government will provide $10M over four years from 2023–24 (and $1.9 M per year ongoing) to address the rise of silicosis in workers and develop a national strategy for the prevention of silicosis and silica-related diseases. This will include the establishment of a dedicated occupational lung diseases team, extending the remit of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to deal with silicosis, and allocate funding to Safe Work Australia’s social partners to increase awareness and support better work practices. While a ban hasn’t been announced, investigation of “long-term reforms” are signalled which leaves the door open. We must keep up the pressure on the government until this deadly manufactured stone is banned once and for all.
Review of modern awards
The Fair Work Commission will conduct a targeted review of modern awards which will consider whether modern awards provide a fair and relevant safety net in the context of the new job security and gender equality objects in the Fair Work Act 2009, and the updated modern awards and minimum wages objectives.
Safer and Fairer Workplaces
The Government will provide $27.4M over four years from 2023–24 to improve the safety and fairness of workplaces, and continue detailed consultation with key industries. Funding will establish the National Construction Industry Forum, to develop targeted training packages for workplace psychosocial hazards, and to support the Productivity, Education and Training Fund.
Reducing gender segregation across industries and occupations
Additional supports will be provided to women to enter male-dominated sectors and occupations. The Australian Skills Guarantee will set targets to reduce gender segregation and aims to see the proportion of women apprentices and trainees on major government construction projects more than double by 2030 and the proportion in trades apprenticeships triple. Reducing gender segregation will contribute to closing the gender pay gap.
Improve pay transparency and reducing the gender pay gap
Reforms to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 to increase transparency and address gender pay gaps have been passed. From early 2024, WGEA will publish the gender pay gaps of employers with 100 or more employees.
Improving access to quality, affordable early childhood education and care (announced in October Budget)
This will make ECEC more affordable for about 1.2 million families and allow parents to get back into the workforce earlier if they choose.
Improvements to Paid Parental Leave (announced in October Budget)
From 1 July 2023, Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay will combine into a single 20-week payment that can be shared between parents. To improve flexibility and gender equality, either parent can claim Paid Parental Leave first, making it easier for fathers and partners to take time off work to be with their children, and the entitlement can be taken in multiple blocks, as small as one day, with periods of work in between. To encourage shared care, a proportion of weeks will be reserved for each parent on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. Single parents will be able to receive the full 20 weeks, up from 18 weeks currently. A new family income limit of $350,000 per annum will also see nearly 3,000 additional parents become eligible for the entitlement. The Government will introduce further legislation to expand the scheme by two weeks each year from July 2024 until reaching 26 weeks in July 2026.
From 1 July 2026, employers will be required to pay workers their superannuation contributions on the same day they pay salary and wages. Currently superannuation is only required to be paid quarterly.
Better Targeted Superannuation Concessions
The Government will tax earnings from superannuation balances over $3 million at 30 per cent, up from 15 per cent, starting in 2025. Individuals with balances less than $3 million will not be affected. The measure will raise $950 million over the forward estimates.