Employment Safety & People Year in Review - 2023 in Review


2023 has been a challenging year for many employers. From grappling with the most substantial amendments to industrial relations and employment law since the introduction of the Fair Work Act in 2009, to contending with rising labour costs amidst economic uncertainty, employers have faced a period of considerable change. A snapshot of this fluctuating environment is provided in our key statistics section below.

Over the course of the year, we have worked closely with our clients to help them navigate this complex environment and achieve outcomes that balance the legal responsibilities they have for their employees with the commercial necessities of running an organisation. As the year draws to a close, our Year in Review 2023 collates our insights and learnings gained from working across employment, industrial relations, discrimination and WHS law over 2023, and provides actionable guidance for employers as they move into 2024.

In the lead up to the 2022 election, taking action on job security was one of the key campaign messages in the ultimately successful Australian Labor Party campaign. As a result, 2023 saw a significant shift in the extent to which our employment and industrial relations laws oblige employers to take responsibility for employee well-being; regulate forms of “insecure” work such as fixed term contract, casual and labour hire employment, and increase the power of unions and gig-economy workers. Whilst changes such as the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act’, ‘Respect at Work Act’ and the psychosocial hazards amendments to WHS Regulation are likely to have positive effects for much of the Australian workforce, some of these changes, along with proposed legislation in theClosing Loopholes Bill’, have created uncertainty in the business community. Our articles on each legislative change clarify the amendments as well as outlining how employers must comply with them.

Aside from major legislative developments, we have also seen a period of significant movement in our workforce, accompanied by labour shortages and increased labour costs. On one hand, organisations are striving to appropriately resource their operations in a cost effective manner, while on the other hand, Boards and public sector agencies are implementing budget efficiency measures due to increased costs and economic uncertainty. These conditions have led to us working with our clients on leading topics such as redundancies and outsourcing operations.

In this publication, we also share the key takeaways from major cases exploring these issues to highlight the elements of employment law that our clients should be considering in 2024.

Key statistics

  • General Employment Law
    • Total applications lodged with the FWC: 31,523
    • Hearings, conferences and conciliations conducted by the FWC: 22,490
      • 76% of proceedings held remotely by telephone with audio only
      • 17% of proceedings held remotely by video
      • 6% of proceedings held in-person
    • Median time from lodgement to conciliation: 33 days
    • Median time from lodgement to Enterprise Agreement approvals without undertakings: 12 days
  • Unfair Dismissal
    • Number of applications lodged with the FWC: 11,012
    • Proportion of all applications lodged: 35%
    • Decrease in applications in the last 12 months: 16% (13,096 in 2021-22)
  • General Protections – involving dismissal
    • Number of applications lodged with the FWC: 4,964
    • Proportion of all applications lodged: 16%
    • Decrease in applications in the last 12 months: 1% (5,010 in 2021-22)
  • General Protections – other
    • Number of applications lodged with the FWC: 996
    • Proportion of all applications lodged: 3.16%
    • Decrease in applications in the last 12 months: 24% (1,305 in 2021-22)
  • Sexual Harassment & Discrimination
    • Discrimination and breach of human rights complaints at the AHRC: 2,562
    • 58% of complaints successfully resolved by conciliation
    • 19% of the complaints received related to race discrimination
    • 46% of the complaints received related to disability discrimination
    • 22% of the complaints received related to sex discrimination
    • 6% of the complaints received related to age discrimination
    • Number of applications made to the FWC to stop sexual harassment: 11 (following the Commission’s receipt of additional powers to deal with disputes about sexual harassment in connection with work on 6 March 2023)
    • Number of applications made to the FWC to stop bullying and sexual harassment: 27
  • Industrial Relations
    • Number of Enterprise Agreement Approval applications lodged with the FWC: 4,173
    • Proportion of all applications lodged: 13%
    • Number of agreements approved by the FWC without undertakings: 1,864
  • Anti-bullying
    • Number of applications lodged with the FWC for an order to stop bullying: 681
    • Number of applications lodged with the FWC for an order to stop bullying and sexual harassment: 27
    • Number of applications lodged with the FWC for an order to stop sexual harassment: 11
      • Total of above applications = 719
    • Increase in such applications in the last 12 months: 14% (631 orders to stop bullying and/or sexual harassment at work in 2021-22)

References

Online Access