INSIGHT

1 July 2018 changes affecting employers, and public consultation opens on Western Australia's WHS reforms

By Simon Dewberry
Employment & Safety Human rights obligations Industrials Risk & Compliance Superannuation

In brief

Several changes relevant to employers took effect on 1 July 2018, including in relation to minimum rates of pay, the high income threshold, the superannuation maximum contribution base and penalty rates in certain industries. Separately, WA has moved a step closer to a modernised Work Health and Safety Act based on the national model WHS Act. Managing Associate Andrew Stirling, Senior Associate Tegan Ayling and Vacation Clerk Maaike Meijnders report.

How does it affect you?

  • Given the new financial year, employers should update themselves regarding their minimum pay obligations.
  • Employers in WA should monitor WA's slow progress to new WHS laws.

National minimum wage

The Fair Work Commission increased minimum wages by 3.5% from 1 July 2018. This means the new national minimum wage is now $18.93 per hour, or $719.20 per week. The increase applies to any employee who is paid according to the national minimum wage or under a modern award.

High income threshold

The high income threshold increased on 1 July 2018 to $145,400 per annum, up from $142,000 per annum. The high income threshold is an important consideration when employers are facing unfair dismissal claims by employees or when guaranteeing a high income employee's annual earnings.

Superannuation maximum contribution base

The superannuation maximum contribution base increased to $54,030 per quarter, up from $52,760 per quarter in the previous year. This affects whether an employer is obliged to pay superannuation for an employee's ordinary time earnings above the maximum contribution base. Importantly, the minimum superannuation guarantee contribution rate has stayed at 9.5%.

Penalty rates

As occurred on 1 July 2017, Sunday penalty rates have again changed for employees covered by the following modern awards:

  • General Retail Industry Award 2010;
  • Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010;
  • Pharmacy Industry Award 2010; and
  • Fast Food Industry Award 2010.

Employers in these industries need to ensure that they are paying up-to-date penalty rates to employees working on Sundays.

Western Australia's WHS reforms

The Ministerial Advisory Panel has reported to the Minister on modernising WHS laws in Western Australia. The Panel's report is available for public consultation until 31 August 2018. A Bill, based on the model WHS Act, is expected to be introduced into Parliament no later than mid-2019 and will replace the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 and the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Safety Levies Act 2011. It is anticipated that the Bill will be the primary WHS legislation across all industries.

The Panel's key recommendations include:

  • a new duty of care on the providers of WHS advice, services or products;
  • to modify and clarify the power of inspectors, including with respect to the production of documents and conduct of interviews; and
  • to ensure that enforceable undertakings are not available for Category 2 offences involving a fatality.