If you’re looking for the short answer, it’s no! It is not illegal to discuss your pay rates with colleagues in Australia. There were significant overhauls to Australian employment laws in December 2022 when the Federal Government passed new industrial relations legislation that made it illegal for an employer to prevent its employees from discussing their pay rates with each other. The main goal of these changes was to reduce pay secrecy in order to assist with closing the gender pay gap.
Pay Secrecy Terms
When new workplace rights came into effect in December 2022, pay secrecy terms were effectively rendered useless. Pay secrecy terms are clauses included within an employment contract which prevent an employee from discussing their pay or other working conditions. Prior to December 2022, employers could enforce and uphold secrecy terms written into their contracts of employment with their employees.
New employment laws 2023
As of 7 June 2023, new employment laws state that it is illegal for employers to include pay secrecy terms in employment contracts when offering jobs to prospective employees. Employers who do include pay secrecy terms in their employment contracts are liable for penalties that can be enforced by Fair Work. It’s also important to be aware that any pay secrecy terms included in contracts made and signed after 7 December 2022 cannot be enforced. By contrast, pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts that were entered into before 7 December 2022 will continue to operate until the contract is terminated or varied. If the contract is varied in any way, the pay secrecy term will no longer have effect.
How are new employment laws enforced?
The Fair Work Ombudsman has the authority to start court proceedings against employers for any alleged breach of an employee’s workplace rights. Complaints can be directed to the Fair Work Ombudsman for investigation. You may also consider engaging an experienced employment dispute lawyer to receive advice about the best way to proceed.
Brisbane woman putting new laws to the test
Natasha Seymour relocated from Brisbane to Melbourne to pursue a career in publishing. She was employed by Melbourne’s oldest bookstore, Hill of Content, on a casual basis. When she noticed that her hourly pay rate didn’t align with the responsibilities she was tasked with, she negotiated a pay rise and back-payment with the store owners. She then shared the news of her pay increase with colleagues in February 2023 – which she was entitled to do, since it was almost two months after the new pay secrecy laws came into effect. However, the bookstore owners terminated Ms Seymour’s employment, stating that she had displayed a “total disregard for confidentiality in anything that occurs between employer and employee”.
Ms Seymour sought legal advice and took the bookstore owners to court earlier this month. Whilst judgment hasn’t yet been delivered, the Brisbane woman’s action in taking her employer to court sends the message that employment laws should be closely adhered to. Perhaps thanks to the internet, workers in today’s age are more aware of their rights and are more likely to seek legal advice when they feel that employment laws have been breached.
How to find Brisbane’s best employment lawyers
The number one thing that separates good employment lawyers from the best employment lawyers is experience! If you’ve been wronged in the course of your employment, your employment lawyer should be able to demonstrate a wealth of experience that shows that they’ve dealt with cases like yours before. It doesn’t matter if you’re casual or full-time, or whether your issue relates to the application process of employment, something that occurred whilst you were employed or you were unfairly dismissed – a great employment lawyer will have seen it all!
How can Victor Legal help?
If you have an employment dispute that you have some questions about, please reach out to our team! We’re a boutique law firm with a wealth of knowledge and experience on employment law related matters. We’re trusted by clients every day to take their employment matters seriously. Contact us today!