Criminal penalties slip through among workplace reform

Tess Ikonomou |

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Labor will address criminal penalties linked to workplace laws.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Labor will address criminal penalties linked to workplace laws.

Bosses could face criminal penalties for contacting employees after hours under proposed workplace laws, but Anthony Albanese has promised to strip away the sanctions. 

Workers will soon have the right to ignore unreasonable calls and emails outside their rostered shifts. 

But legislation that cleared the Senate on Thursday evening included penalties for employers who breached the rules.

The prime minister said Labor would amend its legislation in the lower house.

“It just means we fix it up through separate legislation,” he told ABC radio on Friday.

“We need to adjust industrial relations legislation to the modern world.”

Labor minister Bill Shorten blamed the coalition for the blunder.

“I’ve seen this latest Tory tantrum on workers getting better rights,” he told Nine.

“We don’t think there should be criminal penalties for the right to disconnect.”

The penalties were outlined in the Fair Work Act.

“We said to the Libs, ‘Listen, we just better tidy that up’,” Mr Shorten said.

“And would you believe the Liberals threw the toys out of the cot and said ‘No no, you’ve got your laws, we’re not going to let you amend it’.”

Opposition frontbencher Sussan Ley blamed Labor for botching its own legislation.

“Under a Liberal government you will never go to jail for sending an email after 5pm,” she told Seven.

“Whether deliberately or maybe accidentally, Labor has passed legislation that means that if you either run or manage your business and you contact your staff after hours, you could face jail time.

“How chaotic and how confusing. We need a much better and much more sensible approach when it comes to these issues.”

AAP