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Amending Australian industrial laws a political “hot potato”

Workplace Advisory
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An article published in today’s AFR explores whether Australian courts have a bias towards employers in workplace cases.

Legal editor Michael Pelly uses the recent decision in Workpac v Rossato to mount an argument that, over the past 15 years, the High Court has been “a friend of employers”.

Pelly quotes Arnold Bloch Leibler workplace advisory partner Bridget Little suggesting that workplace law has a highly politicised history.

“Amending the Fair Work Act is a political hot potato that rarely gets past the second reading stage without attracting slogan-based responses from both sides of politics.” Bridget said. “The result has been a gradual but sustained creep in the lower courts towards subjectivity, uncertainty and a reliance on courts in IR cases, including to decide the characterisation of a worker.”

“Amending the Fair Work Act is a political hot potato that rarely gets past the second reading stage without attracting slogan-based responses from both sides of politics.”

The article notes two cases in the wind that will further test the theory – an unlawful termination case involving sacked James Cook University academic Peter Ridd about freedom of speech in the workplace, and two appeals the court will hear later this year on the distinction between contractors and employees.

The views and background Bridget provided to the AFR were prepared with the assistance of senior associate Rachel Soh.

To read the full article in the AFR, click here.

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