Employment Relations and HR Newsletter – December 2021

The Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 (Cth)

On 23 November 2021, the Federal Government introduced the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021, the purpose of which is to provide protection from discrimination based on an individual’s religious beliefs or activity.

The Bill makes provision for faith-based employers to discriminate against existing and prospective workers based on their ‘religious belief or activity’ if it:

(i) is connected to their position as an employee; or

(ii) would prevent an employee from performing inherent requirements of their role.

Employsure fined $1M for false and misleading representations

On 29 November 2021, Employsure was ordered to pay a $1million penalty for false and misleading advertising.

The initial case filed by the ACCC against Employsure, alleged that it regularly used false advertising to represent to potential clients that it was connected with Federal departments such as the Fair Work Commission or the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Vaccine mandate decision by the Fair Work Commission

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has handed down its decision in relation to the mandatory vaccination policy introduced by an employer, Mt Arthur Pty Ltd, a member of the BHP group.

The policy required workers to “receive a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine by 10 November 2021 and be fully vaccinated by 31 January 2022” or else they would not be permitted site access.

Mt Arthur Pty Ltd claimed that the policy was complaint with the NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

However, the FWC found that the policy did not comply with the WHS Act, as the employer had failed to satisfy its statutory requirements to consult with employees.

Consequently, it was not deemed a ‘reasonable direction’ to the employees.

Interestingly, the FWC did find that if there had been adequate consultation, then it is likely that the mandate would have been satisfactory due to several reasons laid out – such as the risk of COVID-19 and the lengthy period for which vaccinations had been promoted and encouraged.

Reminders regarding Christmas casuals

As we approach the festive period, we have a few timely reminders regarding casuals working over the Christmas period.

Most importantly, an employer needs to be aware of the appropriate casual award rate (if applicable) when employing ‘Christmas casuals’, particularly the casual loading inherent in awards.

Further, if employers require casual staff to work on public holidays over the Christmas period, there may be additional penalty rates to consider under applicable awards.

For more information or to discuss how we may be able to assist you, contact our employment law team on (08) 9305 9529.

We wish all our clients a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Written by Natalie Knight

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