Election limbo leaves workplace policies hanging

The close election result has left some potential workplace policy issues unresolved.

The promise of the Coalition following the Double Dissolution election, that the Howard-era Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) be reinstituted, could now be in jeopardy, depending on who forms government and with which party’s help.
The ABCC has been a high-profile issue, fought ideologically and primarily concerning the construction industry. However, the closeness of the election means uncertainty remains on two key pieces of government workplace policy which affect most employers.
The opportunity to sweeten salary packages with super could be diminished because both the Coalition and Labor plan to increase the tax on super contributions for those earning more than $250,000 a year, from 15% to 30%.
The government plans to limit after-tax superannuation contributions to a $500,000 lifetime cap. This rule would take into account all after-tax contributions since 2007 and Labor has criticised the plan because it is effectively retrospective. However, nothing is to stop Labor supporting the cap prospectively.
Labor also said it was open to the Government's proposal to cap tax-free pension phase accounts at $1.6m.
Both major parties will make it harder to fatten salaries with superannuation.

The election also makes future employer-backed Paid Parental Leave policies uncertain. Primary carers who earn less than $150,000 per year can receive up to 18 weeks of parental leave pay at the minimum wage ($657/week), on top of the employer’s paid parental leave. The Coalition’s latest policy on PPL would see the existing scheme cut back and paid parental leave already provided by employers would be ‘topped up’ to ensure new parents receive 18 weeks of paid leave. The change could mean 79,000 parents would have their payments reduced.
Labor has proposed no changes to the existing policy, but the reality of minority government means that important workplace policy such as superannuation and paid parental leave could re-emerge – with large changes – before the end of the year.

By Mark Abernethy

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