The 21st of May 2022 will mark over 3 years since the last federal election. A lot has happened during this time, including the Covid-19 pandemic which had a significant impact on the nature of work. As campaign mode reaches fever pitch, at first glance you’ll be hard-pressed to face substantial differences between the ALP and LNP when it comes to employment policies. Nevertheless, based on what is available, this blog provides a rundown of each of the main political parties’ stances and priorities on all things employment, disability, and aged care industry related.
Australian Labor Party (ALP) Policies & Priorities
The ALP has put forward numerous employment policy proposals, most of which involve reforming the Fair Work Act. One such proposal is making the Fair Work Commission focus on ‘secure’ work when considering other matters such as productivity and economic growth as well as work-life balance. Also, when considering the power of the Fair Work Commission, the ALP is proposing that as well as covering ‘employees’, the FWC ought to cover ‘employee-like’ relationships. This allows for the Fair Work Commission to have greater flexibility in making minimum orders based on different forms of work, not limited to ‘gig’ workers.
The motto ‘Same Work, Same Pay’ as advertised by the ALP refers to a policy proposal where workers who are employed by labour hire companies or other outsourcing arrangements should be paid the same amount as those who work the same job as a business’s employees. Also, the ALP will introduce federal ‘wage theft’ laws that will work alongside existing laws prohibiting ‘wage theft’.
In relation to casual employment, the ALP plans on reforming the definition to one where it does not require the employer to offer a casual position. Rather, the ALP’s proposed definition is reaffirming the legal definition of ‘casual’ employment as decided by the courts before becoming mandated in the Fair Work Act. For the uninitiated, the definition of a casual employee as decided by both the courts and proposed by the ALP is one where there is an “absence” of a firm commitment rather than one where the employer classifies an employee as a casual on the basis.
The ALP endeavours to amend the Fair Work Act to limit fixed-term contracts to either 2 years or 2 consecutive contracts. There will be exceptions to this rule.
The federal government is one of Australia’s largest employers. The ALP is proposing reforms to ensure that working in the public sector is a long-term employment option. Such reforms include minimising the use of labour hire and short-term contracts to ensure employees in the public sector have stable careers. Also, the ALP plans on establishing a ‘Secure Australians Job Code’ to ensure that contracted work is being used to support stable employment.
In the realm of disability, the bulk of ALP’s proposals is in relation to the NDIS. Some of the proposed policies involve:
Establishing an ‘Expert Review’ panel to ensure NDIS plans are not being unfairly reduced
Double funding for disability advocacy services over the next 4 years
Other disability-related policies by ALP involve providing a third of the required funding for local government areas that do not have a public toilet for people with high needs as well as establishing a National Autism Strategy. The ALP also plans on establishing a ‘clearinghouse’ for ideas to help people with disabilities enter the workforce.
In relation to Aged Care, some of the policies the ALP plans on adopting include:
Every aged care service to have a registered qualified nurse on-site 24/7.
Mandating every Australian living in aged care receiver an average of 215 minutes of care every day
Pay rise for aged care workers
Liberal National Party (LNP) Policies and Priorities
In the realm of employment/Industrial relations reform, the LNP’s focus is on reviving the industrial relations bill that was shelved in 2021. For the uninitiated, the Omnibus bill proposed a series of reforms, with only the definition of ‘casual’ employees being made into current law. As a result, if the LNP is re-elected, it is committed to some of the following reforms, albeit with some tinkering with those in the shelved bill:
Among other aspects of reforming Enterprise Agreements (EA), the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) would be suspended for a period of 2 years in that employers would not have to ensure that the conditions as a rule meet the minimum standards in the Award. This would only apply in certain circumstances if it is in the public interest to do so and takes into account all the factors, not limited to the views of employees, employers, and their bargaining representatives.
The objects of EA to include enabling business and employment growth as well as reflecting the needs of employees and employees
Allows for those employed as part-time employees under an Award in the retail, and hospitality industries to work extra shifts without overtime pay. This would be limited to employees who work at least 16 hours a week. Employees would also have the right to refuse to work additional hours, with this being enshrined as a form of ‘General Protections’ in the Fair Work Act. Despite the lack of overtime rates, employees would be entitled to the standard penalty rates and overtime pay for working more than the maximum daily/weekly hours contained in the award.
When it comes to disability and aged care policy, there are no publicly available policies. Rather, it is the most recent budget that highlights their commitment to the disability and aged care sector.
Greens Policies and Priorities
When it comes to employment, the Greens' focus is on ensuring that workplace laws and policies promote equality. According to the Greens, this means ensuring that the minimum wage is at least 60% of the full-time median adult wage as well as increasing penalty rates and providing 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave to all Australians. Also, the Greens aim to penalise ‘wage theft’ and ensure gender pay equity is a priority.
Like the ALP, the Greens plan on ensuring that workers regardless of their classification shoul
d receive the same pay as others based on the work they do. The Greens believe that unions should have more power, especially when it comes to the right to industrial action and having enforceable rights to enter the workplace when it is for a ‘legitimate’ purpose. Further to this, the Greens believe that workers should have the right to collectively bargain at whatever level they consider appropriate as well as workers and unions being involved on the board of the organisation to ensure their voices are heard. Finally, the Greens believe that there should be laws to adequately ensure that the workforce is adequately reflected by the different cohorts in the community to ensure they receive equal pay for work, including people with disabilities and refugees.
Out of all the main political parties, the Greens have arguably the most comprehensive policy platform when it comes to the disability with some of the policies dedicated to the NDIS, employment, and education. In relation to the NDIS, the Greens aim to:
Remove the National Disability Insurance Agency’s staffing cap
Remove the NDIS age limit preventing those over 65 years old from receiving NDIS supports
When it comes to disability and employment, the Greens aim to:
Establish a 20% quota for the Australian Public Sector to employ people with disabilities
Establish milestone targets, performance indicators, and other measures to help increase the workplace participation of people with disabilities across all industries
End Australian Disability Enterprises and other forms of segregated employment by 2030 as well as transition workers to mainstream employment
One Nation Policies and Priorities
One Nation’s policies for employment mainly involve increasing the national apprenticeship scheme to ensure that apprentices receive a subsidy that is reduced by 25% each year for 3 years. In addition to this, One Nation has a focus on creating jobs via infrastructure projects in areas not limited to water, roads, and energy. Further to this, One Nation supports low-emission coal-fired related jobs. Finally, One Nation is opposed to casual employment as it believes in having full-time jobs.