New laws strengthen protections and representation for Queensland workers

Minister for State Development and Infrastructure, Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Racing The Honourable Grace Grace
  • Worker protection and representation strengthened by new health and safety laws
  • Key improvements to worker consultation, election and powers of health and safety representatives (HSR), and streamlined dispute resolution
  • Businesses no longer able to insure against penalties for breaching safety laws

New laws passed today strengthen worker protection and representation and build on the record of the Miles Government in leading the nation to keep Queensland workers safe.

The new laws give effect to recommendations from the Review of Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the national 2018 Review of the Model Work Health and Safety Laws.

The independent WHS Act Review recognised the great value of HSRs in improving the health and safety of workers and recommended a range of measures to promote and encourage the take-up of these roles.

The new laws deliver key reforms to empower HSRs which means they now have the right to choose their own training provider and be fully remunerated for attending training. HSRs will have clarified powers to direct businesses to cease unsafe work and be able to obtain information relevant to their workgroups.

The HSR election processes have also been improved including the obligation to negotiate with workers in the formation of workgroups.

The WHS Act Review considered the critical role fines and penalties play in deterrence and reoffending. Under the new laws, it won’t be possible to offer or take out insurance to cover penalties for WHS breaches.

Other key changes will see clarified and extended rights of entry permit holders, streamlined dispute resolution processes, and will improve the efficiencies of court proceedings by moving some matters from the Magistrates Court to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

The new laws also clarify rules around representation for employees and employers under the Act, in line with the changes made to the Industrial Relations Act in 2022.

Our ongoing commitment to ensuring our laws remain contemporary and fit for purpose stands in contrast to the LNP: the Newman-Crisafulli Government attacked and stripped away the rights and entitlements of workers.

The LNP sacked 14,000 public servants after telling them they had ‘nothing to fear’.

They used WHS as a political football, including removing the right for HSRs to direct that workers cease unsafe work, and to make it more difficult for WHS permit holders to access workplaces to deal with safety issues.

Since 2015, the LNP has voted against a number of nation leading reforms protecting workers including industrial manslaughter laws, laws to protect workers from harassment, and making wage theft a criminal offence.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace:

“The Miles Government has led the nation keeping workers safe, and the passage of these laws is a continuation of our commitment.

“These laws give effect to legislative recommendations made by the independent WHS Act Review, as well as eight recommendations from the Boland Review. This Bill reflects a fundamental commitment of the Miles Government – we believe in protecting workers and others against harm to their health and safety from work-related risks.

“Our laws will continue to ensure that our workers are coming home safe by ensuring that HSRs and entry permit holders are informed and empowered to perform their roles, that workers and businesses are engaging in consultation, and that issues are being resolved with certainty and in timely fashion.

“Fines and penalties are a critical deterrence measure, and the new laws mean no one can be insured against the payment of penalties; the only way to avoid paying is to take safety seriously.

“We are continuing to implement the remaining recommendations from the WHS Act Review, with further legislative changes anticipated this year.

“The Miles Government will never rest on its laurels when it comes to keeping Queensland workers safe, unlike the LNP who stripped workers of rights when in government and have consistently voted against our nation leading reforms while in opposition.”

/Public Release. View in full here.