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Queensland introduces ‘nation-leading’ reforms in new bill

The Queensland government has introduced a new bill with “nation-leading reforms” to protect workers from sexual harassment and advocate for the rights of gig workers.

The Bill to amend Queensland’s Industrial Relations Act 2016 came after an independent five-year review led by Queensland Attorney-General Linda Lavarch and former industrial commissioner John Thompson.

According to the state government, all 40 recommendations were accepted in the review, including 36 in full and four in principle, with 31 of them getting legislative effect under the introduced bill.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the reforms show the commitment of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government for the protection of workers.

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to doing all we can to prevent sexual harassment and gender inequity,” said Grace in a statement. “That’s why I am proud that the Palaszczuk Government is introducing nation-leading reforms which provide workers subject to this type of abhorrent conduct a variety of remedies available through the QIRC.”

As outlined by the state’s official government portal, the proposed changes under the bill include:

  • Strengthening protections for workers subject to sexual harassment, and sex and gender-based harassment, by providing conciliation, arbitration, and injunctive powers to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC)
  • Empowering the QIRC to set minimum conditions and entitlements for independent courier drivers
  • Improvements to entitlements under the Queensland Employment Standards, including parental and adoption leave
  • Enhancing effective representation of employers and employees by organisations registered under the Act
  • Gender pay equity provisions introduced into the bargaining process

In addition, the reforms introduced in the bill also pushes for further rights for independent courier workers in the transport industry.

According to the state government, the bill gives the QIRC the authority to set minimum conditions for independent courier drivers. This is amid pressure on governments across the world to offer further protection for gig workers whose numbers boomed in the past years.

Grace blamed the “lack of regulation” for the serious security and financial risks on gig workers, which is why she said the government is “taking action” on it.

The reforms under the bill will also provide distinctions between employer and employee organisations and other bodies, who seek to represent employers and employees.

“The Bill acknowledges the primacy of the role registered employer and employee organisations play,” said Grace. “It will provide protections against those who make false and misleading claims about being able to represent the industrial interests of employers and employees under the Act.”

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Luke Hemmings