From 1 January 2020, a number of minor legislative changes have commenced following the passage of amending Treasury laws and regulation in 2019. These changes include mandatory whistleblower policies and practices for publicly listed entities and changes to superannuation guarantee obligations in relation to salary sacrifice contributions.

Employers need to be aware of the changes to workplace regulation to safeguard their business from inadvertent breaches of their obligations.

Whistleblowing policies now mandatory

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 requires public and large private companies to have compliant whistleblowing policies in place from 1 January 2020.

The Act, which received royal assent in March 2019, introduces the requirement to have a whistleblower policy that contains mandatory content and must be made available to officers and employees of the company.

The explanatory memorandum states that transparent internal whistleblower policies are essential to good corporate culture and governance.

The amendments set out the content that must be contained in appropriate whistleblowing policies which includes information about:

  1. the protections available to whistleblowers;
  2. the person/organisations to whom protected disclosures may be made, and how they can be made;
  3. how the company will support whistleblowers and protect them from detriment;
  4. how the company will investigate protected disclosures;
  5. how the company will ensure fair treatment of employees of the company who are mentioned in protected disclosures, or to whom such disclosures relate;
  6. how the policy is to be made available to officers and employees of the company; and
  7. any other matters prescribed by the regulations.

Failing to comply with the requirement to have and make available a whistleblower policy in place is an offence and subject to penalties which will be enforced by the Australian and Securities Investment Commission (ASIC).

The new legislation which took effect on 1 July 2019 bolsters the whistleblower protection regime, effectively encouraging whistleblowers to speak out.

Other key reforms include:

  • An expansion of the category of persons who can make disclosures, covering both current and former company employees, officers, and contractors, as well as their family members.
  • Criminal offences and significant civil penalties for non-compliance.
  • A reverse onus of proof when a person seeks compensation, once they have established they have suffered detriment

Contact your local AMMA consultant for further assistance with whistleblowing policies and practices.

Changes to employers’ superannuation guarantee obligations

The Treasury Laws Amendment (2019 Tax Integrity and Other Measures No.1) Act 2019, which took effect on 1 January, prevents employers from including employee salary sacrifice contributions as part of the minimum superannuation payment obligations.

Under the new laws, employers will no longer be able to use employee salary sacrificed contributions to satisfy their superannuation guarantee obligations. Employers can only make their compulsory superannuation contributions on the employee’s ordinary time earnings (OTE).

The amendment specifies that employees’ OTE base earnings are made up of both OTE and the amounts that would have been OTE had the salary sacrifice arrangements not been in place. The amendment also removes the option for employers to use an employee’s taxable salary as their superannuation calculation method.

Previously, any amount salary sacrificed into superannuation by an employee counted towards the employer’s obligation to pay 9.5 per cent of gross wages into superannuation.

Employers should review their payroll practices and ensure the new calculation rules are applied to comply with the 1 January requirements.

For further information on your superannuation obligations contact your local AMMA consultant.

Increased access to paid parental leave scheme

The Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Work Test) Act 2019 amends the work test to support more working mothers to access the Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme.

From 1 January 2020, a longer break between two working days will be allowed under the Paid Parental Leave work test rules. The changes provide for the ‘permissible break’ in the work test to be extended from eight weeks to 12 weeks between two working days.

The amendments further modify the work test to consider the circumstances of pregnant employees who are unable to continue working because of the hazardous nature of their employment and there is no safe job alternative.

The changes measure the 13-month work requirement, not from the date the child was born, but from the date the pregnant employee ceased work due to hazards at the workplace posing risk to the pregnancy.

Previously under the Paid Parental Leave scheme rules, a person will be eligible for PPL where they have worked for:

  • at least 10 months of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of their child; and
  • at least 330 hours in that 10-month period with no more than an eight-week gap between two working days.

For further information on workplace policy please contact AMMA’s policy team [email protected].