Secure Jobs, Better Pay | Fair Work Legislation Amendment

Understand how the Secure Jobs, Better Pay legislation modernises the Fair Work Act, enhancing job security and gender equality and its implications for your business practices in Australia.

What is the Secure Jobs, Better Pay bill?

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill marks the most significant reform in Australian employment law since the introduction of the Fair Work Act in 2009. The Fair Work Act introduces a national workplace relations system that sets minimum standards and conditions for employees, while also providing the legal framework for employer-employee relations for most workplaces in Australia.  

14 years have passed since the Fair Work Act was introduced and the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill is intended to modernise employment law in line with the nation’s most pressing workplace issues. These include creating more secure jobs and further closing the gender pay gap.

What is changing?

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill, a comprehensive reform package proposed by the Australian Labour Party, introduces several legislative amendments effective from various dates. Here are some areas of employment law that are changing as a result:

Gender equality

  • The Act now includes gender equality and job security as core objectives.
  • These objectives have equal importance to productivity and economic growth in the workplace relations framework.
  • The Commission will consider gender equality and job security when varying modern awards.
  • Annual Wage Reviews will now aim to eliminate gender pay gaps.

These changes came into effect on the 7th of December 2022.  


The Act expands its list of protected attributes to include gender identity, intersex status, and breastfeeding. Th list already included:  

  1. Race  
  2. Colour  
  3. Sex  
  4. Sexual orientation  
  5. Age  
  6. Physical or mental disability  
  7. Marital status  
  8. Family or carer’s responsibilities  
  9. Pregnancy  
  10. Religion  
  11. Political opinion  
  12. National extraction or social origin  

These attributes are included in provisions against discriminatory terms in agreements, awards, and general protections.

These changes came into effect on the 7th of December 2022.

Prohibiting pay secrecy clauses

  • Pay secrecy clauses are prohibited, allowing employees to disclose or not disclose their remuneration.
  • This applies to all new or revised employment contracts and agreements from December 7, 2022.

Sexual harassment

  • The Act offers protection against sexual harassment for workers, prospective workers, and employers.
  • The Commission can now facilitate resolution processes and make orders for unresolved sexual harassment disputes.

These changes came into effect on the 6th of March 2023.

Flexible work arrangements

  • The Act strengthens the right of eligible employees to request flexible working arrangements.
  • The Commission can now assist in dispute resolution for flexible work arrangement disputes.

These changes come into effect on the 6th of June 2023.

Unpaid parental leave

  • The National Employment Standards now provide eligible employees with entitlements to unpaid parental leave.
  • Disputes about extension requests can be processed by the Commission.

These changes come into effect on the 6th of June 2023.

Enterprise agreements and bargaining

Enterprise agreements set out employment conditions for up to four years. There are two main types of enterprise agreements:  

  • Single interest enterprise agreements refer to agreements that have two or more employers who engage in a joint venture or common enterprise.  
  • A multi-enterprise agreement is like the former, but covers employers in an industry, rather than employers in a joint venture or common enterprise.

Enterprise bargaining is a process of negotiation between the employer and employees (or the enterprise bargaining representatives of employees), with the aim of making an enterprise agreement. The Fair Work Act lays out the requirements for enterprise agreement bargaining.

  • Amendments introduce changes to supported bargaining processes.
  • Employees can push for good faith enterprise bargaining through the Commission.

Small claims procedures

  • The Act assists workers in recovering unpaid work entitlements through small claims court procedures.
  • The cap for awards in small claims court proceedings has increased from $20,000 to $100,000.

These changes come into effect on 1st of July 2023.

Fixed term contracts

The recent amendments to the Fair Work Act significantly modify the regulations surrounding fixed-term contracts. Key updates include:

Fixed term contracts are now restricted to a maximum duration of two years for the same role, including any renewals. Alternatively, two consecutive contracts can be issued for the same role, whichever duration is shorter.

If an employer issues a fixed-term contract that exceeds these new limits, the employee automatically becomes a permanent employee under the law. This transition means the employee retains the conditions of their fixed-term contract but also gains additional rights and protections afforded to permanent employees.

Employees converted to permanent status in this manner will be entitled to several key benefits typically associated with permanent employment, including:

  • Notice of termination and redundancy payments, as outlined in the National Employment Standards.
  • Eligibility to initiate unfair dismissal proceedings if they believe their dismissal was unjust, harsh, or unreasonable.

Employers who fail to adhere to these contract limitations, or who neglect to provide a Fixed Term Information Statement as required, face the possibility of civil penalties. This measure is designed to ensure employer compliance and protect employee rights.

These critical changes to the regulations regarding fixed-term contracts became effective on December 6, 2023. They signify a substantial shift in employment contract management, emphasising the protection of employees in fixed-term roles and ensuring fair treatment in line with permanent staff.

Key dates for the Secure Jobs, Better Pay bill

Key start dates for changes under the Fair Work Act Legislation (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022:

7th of December 2022

  • Gender equality and job security added as objectives to the Fair Work Act.
  • Pay secrecy provisions removed.
  • New protected attributes added for breastfeeding, gender identity, and intersex status.
  • The Fair Work Commission has powers to correct enterprise agreements and intervene in enterprise bargaining processes.

7th of January 2023

  • Job advertisements banned from including pay rates that breach the Fair Work Act, Awards, and enterprise agreements.

6th of March 2023

  • The Fair Work Commission can intervene in unresolved sexual harassment disputes.

6th of June 2023

  • Changes to requests for extended parental leave, offering increased employee access.

1st of July 2023

  • Increase in monetary cap for unpaid wages claims.

6th of December 2023

  • Limitations on fixed term contracts.

Protecting your business

Understanding and adapting to these changes is important and we advise businesses to review and modify your business practices to align with the new legislation. This includes revising pay rates, employment contracts, and enterprise bargaining strategies to ensure compliance and fairness in your workplace.

Do the Fair Work Act amendments raise any concerns in your company? If you own an Australian business and have issues surrounding workplace relations or Fair Work updates, call our 24/7 Employer Help Line on 1300 144 002 to speak with an Employment Compass expert.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Secure Jobs, Better Pay bill?

A significant reform in Australian employment law aiming to modernise employment laws, focusing on job security and closing the gender pay gap.

What changes does the bill introduce?

Key changes include a focus on gender equality, job security, prohibiting pay secrecy clauses, addressing sexual harassment, enhancing flexible work arrangements, and revising unpaid parental leave policies.

How does the bill affect discrimination laws?

The Act expands protected attributes to include gender identity, intersex status, and breastfeeding, strengthening provisions against discrimination.

What are the new regulations for enterprise agreements and bargaining?

The bill introduces amendments to support bargaining processes and changes the dynamics of enterprise agreements.

How do the amendments affect fixed term contracts?

New limitations are set on fixed-term contracts, with a maximum duration and conversion to permanent employment under certain conditions.

What are the key start dates for these changes?

Key dates include December 7, 2022, for gender equality and pay secrecy provisions, March 6, 2023, for sexual harassment dispute interventions, and December 6, 2023, for fixed term contract limitations.

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