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Employment law update for 2015/16 financial year

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By Brenton Allen, Law Graduate, MST Lawyers

Having recently entered the 2015/16 financial year, employers are encouraged to review the key changes relevant to employment laws that took effect on 1 July 2015. Some of the changes included the following:

  • All modern award rates of pay increased by 2.5 percent;
  • The national minimum wage increased from $640.90 to $656.90 per week, reflecting an hourly increase of $16.87 to $17.29 per hour;
  • The superannuation guarantee cap increased from $49,430 per quarter ($197,720 per year) to $50,810 per quarter ($203,240 per year);
  • In a bona fide redundancy payment, the tax free component has increased to $9,780, plus $4,891 per completed year of service;
  • The Fair Work Information Statement, which must be given to all employees upon commencement of employment, has been updated; and
  • The high income threshold, for the purposes of eligibility to issue an unfair dismissal claim under the Fair Work Act 2009, increased from $133,000 to $136,700 per annum.

The recent case of Dart v Trade Coast Investments Pty Ltd [2015] FWC 4355 demonstrates the importance of employers considering the increase to the high income threshold referred to above.

In Dart the Fair Work Commission (‘FWC’) had to assess whether or not an employee’s income had exceeded the high income threshold. In making their assessment, the FWC held that an employee’s personal use of company owned property can be apportioned and included in the definition of an employee’s total earnings under the Fair Work Act. The FWC equated the employee’s personal use of a company owned vehicle and iPhone 5 to be approximately $12,674.00 and held that this value could be included to push the employee’s total earnings from a salary of $121,560.00 to $134,236.50. This amount exceeded the high income threshold (as at prior to 1 July 2015) and, as a consequence, the employee was deemed ineligible to make an unfair dismissal application.

For employees that are particularly close to the high income threshold, including the apportioned value of company property used for private use into an employee’s total annual earnings may result in a successful objection to an employee’s eligibility to make an unfair dismissal claim.

For further information regarding the above changes or on the operation of unfair dismissal laws, please contact our Employment Law and Workplace Safety team by email workplace@mst.com.au or by telephone +613 8540 0200 .