Senate debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


Fair Work Amendment Bill 2024; Second Reading

6:05 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The amendments which were passed in the Closing Loopholes legislation and which were subsequently supported by this House will establish a right to disconnect in Part 2-9 of the Fair Work Act and require modern awards to include terms giving effect to those rights.

The right will provide that employees are not required to monitor, read or respond to contact from their employer, or work-related contact from third parties, outside of their work hours—unless refusing to do so is unreasonable.

It shouldn't be controversial that people should be paid when they work, and yet essentially that's all this issue is about.

Where disputes about the right to disconnect arise, employers and employees will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for stop orders.

This Bill ensures that the right to disconnect, introduced in the Fair Work Act by our Closing Loopholes legislation, will operate as it should.

A lot's been said about the amendment that was moved in the Senate. It's important to note this—the amendment did not explicitly include criminal penalties, but there's an interaction with section 675(1) of the Fair Work Act, and because of that interaction it's necessary to make a further amendment to rule out criminal penalties.

The amendments in the Bill will insert a new paragraph into subsection 675(2) of the Fair Work Act so that if a person contravenes a Commission order about the new right to disconnect, it will not amount to an offence under section 675 of the Act and will not expose that person to a criminal penalty.

The amendments in this Bill will commence at the same time as the other right to disconnect provisions—that is six months after Royal Assent of the Closing Loopholes legislation, noting that for small business, the right to disconnect provisions will not commence for an additional 12 months.

My understanding is no member of Parliament supports criminal penalties applying. But for reasons I will never understand, Coalition members refused to grant leave for this issue to be corrected last Thursday.

Despite that, I hope that, now that it is in a separate bill, the Coalition—and indeed all members—will now support this legislation which will ensure that criminal penalties do not apply.

Debate adjourned.