The fireworks are over and the puddings have been replaced with hot cross buns in the shops, it is a whole new year.  While the busy retail period cracks on the new year has already ushered in a raft of new laws from superannuation and contract changes, to changing vape laws and electric vehicle rebate changes, all of which will have an impact on the operations of fuel businesses in 2024 and should be understood now.

Employment Law Changes

“There have been a raft of employment law changes that become relevant in the new year, stemming from either the Secure Jobs Better Pay Act or the Closing Loopholes 1 laws.  These include changes to deductions made from employee pay, the movement of superannuation into the National Employee Standards as an employee right as well as changes to Labour Hire Laws and additional protections for employees”, explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

“While some of these may fall into the ‘doesn’t effect me’ basket for most fuel industry operators, the change to super, which places it in the NES, requires all businesses update the statutory information they are providing to new employees”, continues Elisha.

Deductions From Employee Pay

“There are some circumstances, like salary sacrificing, union fees, accommodation or personal purchases, where the employee may authorise the business to make deductions from their pay.  There are other circumstances where a court may require the business to make a deduction from the employees pay.  The fundamental rules are that any deduction must be allowed by law/award or agreement, ordered by a court order or in the employees benefit.  These requriements have not changed, what has changed is the documentation required for all one off and recurring deductions”, explains Elisha.

An employee can make a one-off written authorisation that gives their employer permission to deduct money from their pay, even where the amount can change from year to year. It can be withdrawn by the employee in writing at any time.

An employee’s written agreement to a deduction must be genuine. An employee can’t be forced to agree to a deduction (other than one that is court ordered).

The written agreement must include:

  • for a one-off deduction, the:
    • amount of the deduction
    • reason for the deduction
    • date the deduction will be made
    • name of the person who will receive the deduction amount
  • for regular deductions:
    • whether the deductions are for one or more specific amounts or for amounts that could change over time
    • the reason for the deductions
    • if the deductions are for specific amounts, what those amounts are
    • the date and frequency of the deductions
    • the name of the person who will receive the deductions.

Deductions have to be recorded and kept in an employee’s records. Pay slips also have to say the:

  • amount of any deduction
  • name, or name and number of the fund or account the deduction was paid into.

A new written authorisation is required to change the amount of a deduction if the employee’s initial authorisation includes the specific amount of the deduction.

It is illegal to deduct amounts from an employees pay because of lost, stolen or misappropriated stock or for other business costs.  For more on deductions see;  https://acapmag.com.au/2023/10/its-coming-out-of-your-pay/

Superannuation in the NES

“Superannuation has been a requirement that has lived in the Awards and in the tax laws.  The changes that have moved superannuation into the National Employment Standards as an employee right have an immediate impact on all businesses”, explains Elisha.

“As part of the NES the full remedies of the Fair Work Act and recourse to the Fair Work Commission are now available for employees if there are breaches to the superannuation requriements.  This includes the heavy new wage theft penalties”.

“As the movement of super into the NES has changed the standard employee rights there is also a new updated Fair Work Information Statement that will have to be provided to all new employees from here on”, concluded Elisha.

The Fair Work Information Statement (FWIS) is a statutory statement that must be provided to all new employees.  The FWIS is usually updated in July each year to reflect the changes to the minimum wage.  For a copy of the new FWIS see:  https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employment-conditions/information-statements/fair-work-information-statement

Superannuation breaches are subject to the Wage Theft changes that are law now.  These changes do not  come into effect until 1 January 2025,  for more see: https://acapmag.com.au/2023/12/maximum-10-year-jail-term-for-wage-theft/

Labour Hire Changes

The changes to the labour hire laws, that require that labour hire staff are not paid less than staff employed to do the same work at the same business also apply now.

It is important to note that each State has labour hire schemes and laws that operate in addition to this national requriements.

For more on the Labour Hire Changes see;  https://acapmag.com.au/2023/12/new-employment-laws-q-a-labour-hire/

Fixed Contract Changes

As part of the raft of changes that were ushered in with the passing of the Secure Jobs Better Pay Act in December 2022, changes to fixed contract operations are due to come into force on 6 December 2023.  All employers who engage staff on a fixed term contract are on notice that the changes to the operation of those contracts, as well as new statutory statement provision requriements.  These requriements are new and detailed, and all employers should understand how they impact on their particular business circumstances now.

For more contract changes see;  https://acapmag.com.au/2023/11/employment-law-changes-fixed-term-contract-changes-from-december-1/

Seniors Working Income Cap Lifted

From 1 January 2024, seniors and veterans will be able to earn more income before their pension payments are impacted.

The federal government is permanently increasing the Work Bonus limit by $4,000 – from $7,800 to $11,800. Single pensioners can earn $204 a fortnight and couples can earn $360 before it is counted under the pension income test.

There’s also added a $300 per fortnight Work Bonus, which increases the amount pensioners can earn. This means a single age pensioner could earn up to $504 a fortnight and still receive the maximum rate of pension.

Vape Bans Commence

The federal government’s vaping crackdown starts in the new year.

In a bid to tackle what Health Minister Mark Butler has labelled a “major public health issue”, the first stage of vaping reforms will ban the importation of disposable single-use devices.

From 1 January 2024, the importation of disposable vapes will be prohibited, subject to very limited exceptions. The ban will apply to disposable vapes irrespective of nicotine content or therapeutic claims. It means that it will be unlawful to import disposable vapes on or after 1 January 2024, even if those vapes were ordered before 1 January 2024 and have not yet arrived in Australia.

Disposable vapes that have been imported into Australia before 1 January 2024 may continue to be lawfully supplied in Australia subject to the following requirements:

  • disposable vapes containing nicotine that meet TGA requirements may continue to be lawfully supplied in Australia in pharmacy settings to a patient with a prescription in accordance with state and territory laws for prescription medicines,
  • disposable vapes that do not contain nicotine, or any other medicine, and do not make therapeutic claims, may be supplied by retailers generally, including vape stores, subject to state or territory law.

This will allow legitimate retailers of disposable vapes to run down their stocks prior to the Government introducing legislation in early 2024 to prevent the domestic manufacture, advertisement, supply and commercial possession of disposable vapes, to ensure comprehensive controls across all levels of the supply chain.

From 1 March 2024, the importation of all non-therapeutic vapes will be prohibited. This means that it will be unlawful to import non-therapeutic vapes on or after 1 March 2024 even if those vapes were ordered before 1 March 2024 and have not yet arrived in Australia.

Subject to state or territory law, non-therapeutic vapes imported before 1 March 2024 may still be lawfully sold by retailers generally, including vape stores, provided the vape does not contain nicotine or any other medicine, and does not make therapeutic claims.

This will allow legitimate retailers of non-therapeutic vapes not containing nicotine to run down their stocks prior to the Government introducing legislation later in 2024 to prevent the domestic manufacture, advertisement, supply and commercial possession of non-therapeutic vapes to ensure comprehensive controls on vapes across all levels of the supply chain.

For more see; https://www.tga.gov.au/news/media-releases/new-regulation-vapes-starting-january-2024

Electric Vehicle Rebate Changes

Electric vehicles will no longer come with a $3,000 rebate in NSW and the stamp duty exemption for zero and low-emission vehicles also ends on 1 January.

In South Australia, the government’s $3,000 rebate will also finish on 1 January.

People who have bought a car, or made a deposit, but have not yet had it delivered will still be eligible to receive the rebate.

Learnings for all businesses

It is easy to get swept up in the busy summer season, but it is important to pause and digest the changes that come into effect as we ring in the New Year.

“As is expected there will be more changes that will come throughout the year.  ACAPMA will continue to keep Members informed of the changes and supported with achieving compliance” conclude Elisha.

Here to help

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.  They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice.  You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor.  ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via employment@acapma.com.au , it is free for members.  ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/  for more information.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)

ACAPMA

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