Australia: 2016 in Review - major employment stories for 2016

Last Updated: 31 May 2017
Article by Alecia Thompson

We consider what the major employment law stories for 2016 were and what their potential future impact could be.

Parental leave

Leading up to the election, the Coalition scrapped Tony Abbott's maternity leave scheme which promised that mothers would be paid their full income for 6 months.

The policy at that time entitled eligible primary carers who earned less than $150,000 per annum to a maximum of 18 weeks parental leave at minimum wage on top of any paid parental leave from their employer. The Coalition proposed a 'fairer' cut back to the existing system and Labor's election campaign promised no changes to the original policy and a reversal of the cuts proposed by Malcolm Turnbull.

The Government introduced the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill on 20 October 2016. If it is passed, government parental leave will only apply as a 'top up' to any payments made by the employer, so that each person is only entitled to a combined maximum of 18 weeks and cannot 'double dip' from both sources to accumulate more than 18 weeks.

This legislation faces a great deal of opposition from both Labor and the Greens, which means the Government needs the support of 9 crossbench senators to pass the bill. For this reason, despite its potential start date of 1 January 2017, it's likely that any changes won't come into effect until later in the year.

Contributor Alecia Thompson previously wrote about the potential impact of these changes on women who are already pregnant.

7-Eleven and vulnerable workers

In 2016, 7-Eleven faced heat from both a Senate Inquiry as well as the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) for franchisees underpaying and exploiting often vulnerable workers. A key election promise for the Coalition was to deliver stronger protection for vulnerable workers, particularly through penalising employers and strengthening the powers of the FWO.

They followed through on these promises with the announcement of a Migrant Worker Taskforce and new laws in 2017 to enhance the FWO's examination powers and prohibit employers from providing false and misleading information to Fair Work Inspectors. Heading into 2017, the Taskforce will have an additional function of monitoring 7-Eleven's progress in rectifying their breaches in underpayment, manipulation of payroll systems and doctoring false employment records.

7-Eleven signed a landmark proactive compliance deed with FWO. Under the deed, the most comprehensive of its kind for a franchise brand in Australia, all 7-Eleven stores must install biometric shift scanning systems and CCTV that will allow head office to monitor worker hours against what is paid to them. 7-Eleven will also implement a central payroll system specifying minimum rates for workers and employ an independent auditor.

Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC)

The ABCC, replaced by the Gillard government with Fair Work Building and Construction in 2012, was a watchdog to combat 'an industry experiencing lawlessness'. The Coalition has maintained that the ABCC is needed to tackle illegal behaviour on construction sites and improve productivity through tougher penalties. They failed to have its reinstatement passed twice – most recently leading to the double dissolution election in July this year.

The Turnbull Government reintroduced the ABCC bill in August and it passed successfully through both houses by the end of November, despite opposition by Labor and the Greens. The new bill had extra oversight for the commission's coercive powers, a requirement for building to be offered to locals, security of payment for subcontractors, judicial review and a review of the operation of the laws within a year.

Changes to Modern Awards

The Fair Work Commission varied some awards with new or changed terms about taking annual leave, with most taking effect from 29 July 2016.

Most awards now permit employees to cash out annual leave in advance provided they have at least 4 weeks annual leave left after the cash out, have signed a written agreement with their employer and don't cash out more than 2 weeks each year. Under most awards, employees can also take annual leave in advance if their employer agrees in writing.

The changes also provide some rules for managing employees that have excessive annual leave balances, i.e. where an employee has accumulated at least 8 weeks of leave, or 10 weeks if they are a shift worker.

In the event that an employee has an excessive annual leave balance and can't agree with their employer on when to take it, the employer can tell the employee in writing that they must take annual leave, giving at least 8 weeks' notice of when the leave will start. Note that there are rules about how long the period of leave has to be and how much the employee has to have left afterwards. Some awards will also allow employees with excessive annual leave balances to tell their employer that they will take a period of leave, although these clauses do not take effect until 29 July 2017.

Finally, a new clause has been added to some awards permitting the employee to continue to be paid using the usual pay cycle during periods of leave if they are paid by electronic funds transfer, rather than be paid a lump sum in advance.

Our most popular blog articles

We also have a number of our blog articles that were very popular amongst our readers this year. Take a look back at the ones that really struck a chord with you:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions