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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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The 'mind-body problem' and proposed DSP reforms

The interim report of the Review of Australia’s Welfare System led by Patrick McClure was released on 29 June 2014. The report contains proposals for significant reforms to the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The reforms would see the DSP reserved for people with a permanent impairment and no capacity to work. Those people with a partial capacity to work would be placed on a lower tiered working age payment and provided with support to improve their employment capacity. The proposals represent an attempt to deal with the perverse incentive for income support claimants to apply for DSP, which has a higher rate of payment and reduced activity testing, rather than allowance payments l... Read more...

Parliamentary Library Lecture: Innovation and job targets the keys to disability employment

Craig Wallace, President of People with Disability Australia, has told a Parliamentary Library Lecture that poverty for people with disabilities in Australia will not be overcome by changes to the system of income support. Instead, he argued, Australia should commit to a national challenge to create jobs for people with disabilities over the next decade. Mr Wallace argued that ‘Australia has a troubling record on jobs on disability’: We rank 21st out of 29 OECD countries in employment participation rates for those with a disability. We rank 27th of the 27 in terms of the correlation between disability and poverty. 45 percent of people with a disability live in, or near, pov... Read more...

Fair Work Commission hands down landmark ruling on anti-bullying regime

Fair Work Commission hands down landmark ruling on anti-bullying regime On 6 March 2014, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled that its jurisdiction to hear complaints from workers who allege they are victims of workplace bullying extends to complaints that relate to bullying that occurred prior to the anti-bullying regime coming into force.   Background As detailed in a previous flag post, the reforms related to bullying were introduced by the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013, which provided the FWC with jurisdiction to hear complaints from workers covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA) who allege they are victims of workplace bullying. On 9 January 2014, Ms Kathleen McInnes... Read more...

High Court to decide if mutual trust and confidence is implied in employment contracts

The High Court has granted the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (the Bank) special leave to appeal the Full Federal Court’s decision in Commonwealth Bank of Australia v Barker[2013] FCAFC 83. The case will be significant as it will be the first time the High Court has considered if an implied term of mutual trust and confidence exists in employment contracts.   What is the mutual duty of trust and confidence? The Full Federal Court was the first Australian superior appellate court to consider the issue, and found that the mutual duty of trust and confidence exists as an implied term in employment contracts. It defined the implied term as providing that an:   … e... Read more...

Employed people or jobs: semantics or an important difference in terminology?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.In March (2013), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released new analysis of the Australian labour market based on jobs. Their article, Estimating jobs in the Australian Labour Market, outlines the differences between the number of jobs and the number of employed people, and complements regular labour market data produced by the ABS. Estimates of the number of jobs were produced using the monthly Labour Force Survey, the quarterly Job Vacancies Survey and the 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation.Changes in estimates of employed people may mistakenly be referred to as jobs ’created’ or ‘lost’. However, a job is the (paid)... Read more...

Is an employee who resigns entitled to leave-loading on their unpaid annual leave?

Since the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA) was introduced, there have been differing views regarding how to calculate the amount payable to an employee who has untaken annual leave when they cease employment. Is it calculated using the employee’s base rate of pay, or must it (if the employee is entitled to it) include leave-loading?Stephen Edward Ryan v Whitehaven Coal Mining Pty Ltd (Ryan v Whitehaven)* may be the first case to have considered the issue. The court ruled that where an employee is entitled to leave-loading, the amount payable for any untaken annual leave must include leave‑loading.The NES and leave loadingUnder the National Employment Standards (NES), there is no entitlement to leav... Read more...

The other temporary skilled visa

While the Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa has undergone heavy scrutiny of late, another temporary skilled visa has been expanding more rapidly, and is about to become even more attractive.  The Temporary Skilled Graduate visa (subclass 485) is for overseas students who have completed a qualification at an Australian higher education institution. The visa was introduced in 2008 to enable graduates to remain in Australia for up to 18 months after completing their course, to gain work experience or improve their English language skills. An applicant had to meet the Australian standard for an occupation on the Skilled Occupation List. Remarkable growth The Temporary Skilled Graduate... Read more...

Public sector staffing reductions in the states and territories

Since 2011 the state and territory governments have introduced public sector staffing reductions as savings measures (some jurisdictions also had reduction programs in place prior to 2011). A summary of the reductions is provided below; ‘FTE’ is not a headcount but refers to full-time equivalent staffing levels. For the Commonwealth Government, the 2012–13 Budget estimates a staffing reduction in the Australian Public Service of 3 074 FTE for 2012–13 to be achieved in the main by a combination of natural attrition and voluntary redundancies. In November 2011 the Government also increasedits efficiency dividend rate to 4.0 per cent for 2012–13 (up from a rate of 1.5 per cent per annum). In 2... Read more...

Disability employment in Australia and the OECD

Accounting firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has released a report outlining a series of principles that it believes should guide the implementation of the national disability insurance scheme proposed by the Productivity Commission. In the report, PwC cites statistics which indicate that Australia ranks 21st out of 29 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in employment rates for people with a disability. It also highlights the fact that Australia is ranked 27th out of 27 OECD countries when it comes to relative poverty risk for people with a disability.The first of these figures begs the question: Why does Australia perform so poorly relative to other OECD... Read more...

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