ACT Government Introduces Bill to Tackle Overpayment and Workplace Privacy Concerns

Monday 26 February 2018 @ 11.21 a.m. | Industrial Law | Legal Research

On 15 February 2018, the Workplace Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (ACT) (‘the Bill’) was introduced in the ACT Parliament. The Bill provides for employer deductions from an employee’s salary where an overpayment has occurred. The Bill also addresses workplace privacy concerns.

Legislative Amendments

The Act amends the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (ACT) to stipulate that a public servant must repay any amount they are not legally entitled to. Currently the Fair Work Act 2009 (CTH) prohibits the deduction of money from an employee’s salary without the employee’s written consent. The amendments proposed by the Bill allow for recovery action to proceed if the employee or the Head of Service cannot agree on a repayment arrangement, and removes the requirement that any recovery action must be agreed between the employee and Head of Service.  

The Act amends the Workplace Privacy Amendment Act 2016 (ACT) to remove uncommenced provisions relating to workplace surveillance related to illegal acts by the employee.

The Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Rachel Stephen-Smith stated in her second reading speech:

“The current overpayment provisions require any arrangement for repayment to be subject to the agreement of the public servant. The proposed amendment will authorise salary deductions where agreement cannot be reached. This new scheme applies to all debts in place at the time the legislation becomes active. There is a need to refine these overpayment arrangements because there are a number of overpayments currently owed to the territory.”

Regarding the amendments to the Workplace Privacy Amendment Act 2016 (ACT), Ms Stephen-Smith noted that the amendments contained within that Act had been postponed at the time because concerns were raised that the threshold for allowing external covert surveillance was too low. She stated:

“Further stakeholder consultation has now been undertaken on the uncommenced sections of the amendment act. In addition to UnionsACT, which raised the concerns initially, officials have consulted the tripartite ACT Work Safety Council, ACT Insurance Authority, ACT Bar Association and ACT Law Society. All of these parties raised issues with the application and scope of the provisions as currently drafted. Concerns raised included that the provisions had wider scope than was sought and that they posed a risk to vulnerable workers who could be particularly susceptible to coercion or abuse by employers utilising information obtained by covert surveillance outside the workplace.”

Because of the stakeholder consultation, the Bill proposes that the provisions should be omitted.

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Workplace Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (ACT), explanatory statement and second reading speech, as published on TimeBase LawOne.

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