Skip to main content

The newly-elected Labor government has pledged to introduce significant and varied reforms to South Australia’s employment laws which are likely to impact employers across all industries. (You can read Labor’s Industrial Relations Policy here.)

Notably, the policy foreshadows the introduction of maximum prison terms of up to 20 years and significant financial penalties where an employer acts recklessly and their actions are the primary cause of an employee’s death. At present, the most serious breaches of WHS legislation attract maximum penalties of up to $3 million for a corporation/government body, up to $600,000.00 or five years jail (or both) for persons conducting a business or undertaking and up to $300,000.00 or five years jail (or both) for individuals.

Labor’s policy also promises to introduce legislation “to create criminal penalties for persistent and deliberate underpayment of workers, including wages and superannuation.” While current laws provide for civil financial penalties for businesses that deliberately or recklessly underpay their workers, until now the mainstream discourse regarding “Wage Theft” has only resulted in the implementation of criminal penalties for underpayments in Victoria and Queensland.

Labor’s policy also indicates its reform commitment in relation to:

  • portable long service leave across various industries (only employers in the construction industry are subject to portable long service leave legislation);
  • labour hire licensing, particularly to “ensure that all labour hire firms and workers are covered by the same laws and regulations”;
  • SafeWork SA’s processes and practices;
  • domestic and family violence leave;
  • gender equity in the Fair Work Act 1994 (SA);
  • the enforcement of decisions handed down by the South Australian Employment Tribunal.

The potential impact of these policies are significant. It is recommended that employers across all industries and sectors actively monitor any changes in the laws and regulations relevant to their industries to ensure ongoing compliance in this rapidly changing environment.

We will continue to keep you updated.

You can also access Labor’s Women: Safety, Wellbeing, Equality policy here.

This article was contributed to by Senior Associate, Ben Smith.