How has legislation changed your business in 2017?

This year Australian businesses have felt the effects of a number of significant legislative changes. 

So we’ve compiled a list of some of the top changes you need to know about:

Penalty rates decision 

After a four-year review period, the Fair Work Commission announced its decision on 23 February 2017 on recommended changes to penalty rates for workers in the hospitality, restaurant, fast food, retail and pharmacy sectors1.

This decision was challenged in the Federal Court, but the Court ruled not to change the new rates being applied from 1 July 2017. 

The changes to penalty rates affect both permanent and causal employees who work on Sundays, public holidays, evenings and after midnight. You can find out more about each of the awards by visiting the Fair Work website

Modifying Australia’s temporary visa program

Changes to Australia’s temporary and permanent skills migration program were announced back in April 2017, particularly focusing on workers under the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) program. 

On 1 July 2017 some changes were implemented, including:

  • some occupations being removed or added to the list of eligible skilled occupations
  • minimum English language requirements for applicants, and
  • an additional pathway for New Zealand visa holders who reside as permanent residents in Australia.  

These are part of a larger package of reforms that will see the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa introduced in March 2018.

You can find out more about the changes on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website

New arrangements for working holiday makers

This year we’ve seen three important changes for working holiday makers and the companies employing them. The changes include:

  1. Employer registration – the Australian Taxation office (ATO) requires employers of working holiday markers to register before making payments to workers, so the correct working holiday maker tax rate can be applied. 
  2. New tax rate – introduced on 1 January 2017, the tax rate for working holiday makers (on 417 or 462 visas) changed to 15% for every dollar they earn up to $37,000. After $37,001, ordinary tax rates are applied2
  3. Change to tax rate on a Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP) – working holiday makers are entitled to earn super while working in Australia, and can choose to take their super as a DASP once they’ve left the country. On 1 July 2017, the tax rate on these super payments, made to individuals who have only ever held a working holiday visa, increased to 65%. 

To find out more about this, visit the Australian Taxation Office website.

Protecting vulnerable workers

On 27 October 2017 the Fair Work Amendment (protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 came into effect. This may see companies charged with higher penalties for serious contraventions of workplace laws and record keeping breaches, and is especially important for:

  • vulnerable employees, in particular migrant workers
  • franchisors and holding companies
  • people or companies who do not voluntarily cooperate with Fair Work Ombudsman investigations. 

The Act includes a range of measures, such as an increase in the maximum penalties for employers who deliberately flout the minimum wage and other entitlements under the Fair Work Act 20093.

For a more in-depth analysis of how the changes may affect your business, visit the Fair Work website

2016/17 Federal Budget super changes

As we announced in the March edition of Employer news, 2017 saw the introduction of many changes to super which were first announced in the 2016/17 Federal Budget.  

Some of the key changes which could impact your employees were changing the concessional contributions cap, changes to the non-concessional contributions cap and to the eligibility rules for making tax-deductible personal super contributions.  

What’s to come in 2018?

The Federal Government announced additional changes in the 2017/18 budget, many of which are still progressing through Parliament such as the First Home Super Saver scheme and contributing the proceeds of downsizing to super.

We’ll keep you updated in 2018 with any new changes, so stay tuned. 

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