Outcome 2

Deputy Secretary, Workplace Relations and Economic Strategy, Sandra Parker

Sandra Parker
Deputy Secretary, Workplace Relations and Economic Strategy

Outcome 2 facilitates jobs growth by developing and implementing policies that promote fair, productive and safe workplaces.

The department, alongside its seven portfolio agencies—the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency; Comcare (including the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission and the Seafarers’ Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority); the Fair Work Commission; the Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate; the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman; Safe Work Australia; and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency—works to achieve this outcome by managing the Commonwealth workplace relations, work health and safety, and workers’ compensation frameworks; leading economic policy, research and evaluation; and administering the Fair Entitlements Guarantee and the Australian Government Building and Construction WHS Accreditation Scheme.

The department focuses on economic prosperity by identifying the key economic challenges facing the nation and developing departmental policies that meet these challenges. By analysing the drivers of labour market disadvantage and business performance, as well as the role of human capital in the workplace, the department works to support increased levels of workforce participation and wellbeing. Information on the department’s formal evaluation and research of employment services programmes in 2014–15 can be found on pages 34–37 of this report; our work in the deregulation area is detailed on pages 81–82.

Highlights

  • In March 2015, the department worked with the Department of the Treasury to prepare the government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage review. The review considers the national minimum wage, which affects around 157,000 employees, as well as award classification wages, which affect around 1.9 million employees. The department also continued to engage with the Fair Work Commission’s four-yearly review of modern awards.
  • The department made a submission to the Productivity Commission review of the workplace relations framework.
  • The department undertook business process improvements to modernise the administration of the Fair Entitlements Guarantee programme and ensure accurate and timely payments to redundant workers.
  • The department supported the introduction of amendments to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 into parliament in March 2015. The amendments will modernise the workers’ compensation arrangements for all APS employees as well as employees of the ACT Government and of 33 self-insured national companies.
  • The department led an APS-wide strategy to improve the way the public service prevents workplace injuries and assists injured workers to return to work.
  • Following the department’s 2014 review of the Australian Government Building and Construction WHS Accreditation Scheme, the government agreed to implement 23 of the review’s 25 recommendations in full and the remaining two with minor modifications. Implementation of the recommendations was largely completed during the year, including regulatory changes that took effect from 1 January 2015.
  • The department contributed to Safe Work Australia’s examination of how model work health and safety laws could be improved to reduce red tape and make it easier for businesses and workers to comply. The department also reviewed the governance arrangements for Safe Work Australia, which included a review of the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety.
  • The department led an inter-departmental committee that advised the government on a response to the ACT Government’s request for assistance to deal with Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos in houses in the Australian Capital Territory.

Challenges

Demand in the Fair Entitlements Guarantee programme continued to be high with the average time to process claims in 2014–15 significantly increasing. The department is undertaking significant process improvements to reduce the wait time for workers seeking assistance under the scheme.

Developing a comprehensive reform package for the Commonwealth Seacare scheme is an ongoing and complex undertaking. The department’s work on the reforms was delayed by the need to develop a response to the Federal Court’s decision in Samson Maritime Pty Ltd v Aucote [2014]. Work on the reforms recommenced following the passage of the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2015. The Minister made a commitment to introduce legislation to reform the Seacare scheme by the end of 2015.