The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and Regulations 2011 commenced on 1 January 2012.

The Act provides for increased penalties for corporations, company officers and other persons conducting a business or undertaking.

Through national harmonisation these new workplace laws aim to protect the health and safety of all workers and reduce compliance costs whilst improving safety outcomes.

Significant Changes to Workplace Law for Businesses to be Aware of:

New definitions:      

Worker includes anyone who carries out work in any capacity, including volunteers and contractors

Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) includes organisations that are responsible for workers in their workplace

  • Officers must exercise ‘due diligence’ to ensure PCBU complies with duties
  • PCBUs must consult with all affected workers and other PCBUs with shared responsibilities
  • Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) replace OHS Representatives with increased functions and powers
  • Union officials can apply to obtain a WHS entry permit which will give them a right to enter a workplace
  • Increased maximum fines – $3 million for a corporation; $600,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for an individual who is a PCBU or an officer; and $300,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for other individuals

WorkCover will act as Regulator and will carry out functions to monitor compliance with the WHS laws and Codes of Practice. The Regulator will appoint Inspectors to provide information and employment advice to PCBUs about compliance, assist in resolving work health and safety issues, investigate contraventions and issue notices when required.

Tips for Employers

  • Gain an understanding of these new changes to workplace law
  • Review employment contracts and responsibilities in position descriptions
  • Revise and/or supplement policies & procedures which are in line with new workplace law
  • Develop effective representation/consultation and risk management procedures and procedures to manage employee rights of entry
  • Implement training and ongoing review of systems and procedures
  • Develop clear-cut incident reporting, management & resolution processes
  • Review corporate structures to ensure due diligence is exercised by officers and PCBUs do everything reasonably practical to comply with their obligations

More Information

Consulting an HR lawyer or approaching an employment law expert for employment law advice will assist with the proper implementation of these workplace law changes in your workplace.

Please call the leading employment lawyers in Parramatta, the Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions team on 9635-7966 to speak with one of our employment lawyers about your employment law issues.