In our previous post celebrating the firm’s decade in Australia, our partners shared their insights into the most significant changes in employment and safety law that have affected leading employers. This post further explores our partners’ perspectives on the major changes and trends that they anticipate will have a major impact on Australian businesses in the next five to ten years.

What changes or trends do you foresee that will have a major impact on employers in the next 5-10 years?

“I think the regulatory changes introduced since the Labor government came to power will see their full impact play out over the medium term. The ramifications of the changes, and their likely impact on our workplaces and the economy, will be wide-reaching. This will require new skillsets and thinking for management and HR teams who, in many cases, are not ready and sufficiently resourced for what is coming.” – Rachel Bernasconi, Partner

“Compliance with the relatively new psychosocial risk laws will start to settle in, as well as potential new laws relating to reporting psychosocial risks and incidents.” – Paul Cutrone, Partner

“Psychosocial laws are in their infancy but they will continue to develop across the various jurisdictions. While there appears to be consensus on the ultimate aim of these laws, how we get there has been polarising. Given the intangibility of psychosocial health and the differing views of what compliance may look like, adapting risk management strategies will be a challenge for employers, particularly for those who are managing risks from a variety of working environments in a post-pandemic world.” – Marissa Dreher, Partner

“As technology advances and we see even more new ways of working (and society considers how to best take advantage of AI), we will see ongoing debate about how far workplace regulation should intrude. As the world recovers over the next 10 years from the impacts of COVID (including persistent inflation) and armed conflicts, employers will need to deal with the changing expectations of employees about what “work” means to them, and the role it plays in their lives. Employers will need to be open to adapting their business models to the demands of modern workers, including the “Three Fs”: flexibility, fulfilment and finance.” – Ben Dudley, Partner

“Workplaces will navigate the current Government’s extensive workplace changes. Multi-employer bargaining will emerge in industries where unions already operate in a de-facto pattern bargaining fashion. As economic fortunes wane, workplaces will again find ways to do more with less and a future Government will be under pressure to de-regulate in some areas. I wouldn’t rule out the return of a statute supported individual contract as frustration with collective bargaining mounts including amongst employees. AI will erode routine knowledge-based jobs. Lower employment will be a consequence of an inflexible regulatory environment. Large employers will find ways to better systemise workplace compliance with more solutions offered to them by the market.” – Chris Gardner, Partner

“After a period of relative stability under the Fair Work Act 2009, we are now heading into a period of instability. The Albanese Government’s broad reform agenda is pursuing fundamental changes which will affect the way businesses deal with their employees, contractors, labour hire providers and unions. These reforms affect almost every way of working. The full impact of the reforms will not be known until after any transitional periods when test cases start to run through courts and tribunals. This period of uncertainty will make employer decision making more difficult, and riskier, in the foreseeable future. Employers will have to carefully calibrate opportunity and risk. There is going to be a tradeoff between “playing it safe” and making decisions in the face of uncertainty that might best position the business in years to come (depending on how those test cases play out).” – Erin Hawthorne, Partner

“Running a business will be a different proposition in the next decade to what it was in 2010, or even 2020, from a people perspective. Employer duties and obligations to their people are broader and deeper, even as workforces de-centralise and evolve with the advent of better technology. Recent legislative reforms will entrench the focus on the protection of the individual and their health, safety and satisfaction at work.” – Justine Giuliani, Partner

“The multi-disciplinary approach needed by businesses to what have traditionally been ‘HR’ or ‘WHS’ issues which now need to be considered wholistically. This is occurring against the backdrop of an increasing enforcement environment, with greater criminal penalties for corporations and individuals.” – Sarah Goodhew, Partner

“With the new legislative changes introduced by the Federal Government, I anticipate that we are moving into a period of collective claims and disputes. This is a product of the focus on enterprise bargaining and union rights under the new legislation. In addition, we will also see an increased focus on diversity and inclusion as companies look to manage their new obligations with recent changes in WGEA reporting requirements, new obligations under the Respect@Work reforms and an increasingly tight labour market where companies are competing for talent (and candidates are closely considering policies and benefits which touch on diversity and inclusion such as flexibility and parental leave).” – Philippa Noakes, Partner

“Clearly one major trend will be how our legislative frameworks evolve to reflect changes in the nature of work, as technological change breaks down conventional models of employment. Another will be how employers engage with a revitalised union movement and much less favourable environment in our employment tribunals. There is an element of going back to the future here. My expectation is that we will start to see companies increasingly approaching their compliance with employment and safety laws, and ethical workplaces practices, become a key part of their approach to ESG.” – Darren Perry, Managing Partner

“The title “Fair Work Act” has become a misnomer following recent changes. The “Worker Rights Act” would be a more suitable title. The next five years will be characterised by test cases to establish the boundaries of these new individual and collective rights. My fear is that the economic damage will be profound before the “pub-test” will provide a viable political pathway for reform. So, we need to plan for this environment to be here for a while….The comfort is that principled organisations with strong leadership know that they can drive effective workplaces and change notwithstanding the regulatory environment. Strategies to achieve and maintain alignment with at least a majority of employees will never be more important. So, I expect to see increasing sophistication and innovation from organisations to meet the challenges of the new landscape. Promisingly, this has already started to occur.” – Henry Skene, Partner

“A key driver of future success will be creating business models and practices that are resilient to regulatory change and can benefit from it. The ability for business to constantly evolve and use technology will be paramount. In terms of changes to the law, preparation is better than prediction. That said, there are likely to be aspects of change:

  • As the political winds change there will be an assessment of whether some aspects of the current changes and those that will occur in the short term are economically damaging or an over-correction; which may see some aspects wound back.
  • The fast development of AI, and all the good and bad that comes with it, will mean the intersection of employment laws, surveillance and other technology related laws will become a greater focus.” – Michael Tamvakologos, Partner

The perspectives offered by our partners on recent and anticipated changes serve to remind employers that employment and workplace safety laws are never static. Employers will need to proactively adapt to the evolving legal terrain, ensuring resilience and success amidst the challenges and opportunities on the horizon.


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Photo of Rachel Bernasconi Rachel Bernasconi

“She is magnificent: highly pragmatic and very commercial” quoted a client of Rachel’s in Chambers – enough said?

Rachel does not shy from challenges supporting employers with highly unionised workforces, with rapid technological change and whose disputes more often than not reach headlines.…

“She is magnificent: highly pragmatic and very commercial” quoted a client of Rachel’s in Chambers – enough said?

Rachel does not shy from challenges supporting employers with highly unionised workforces, with rapid technological change and whose disputes more often than not reach headlines.

With a passion for working closely with large organisations, with both blue and white collar workforces, Rachel finds people driven solutions to problems meeting strategic needs while identifying and mitigating risks.

Photo of Paul Cutrone Paul Cutrone

If the health and safety of your people are your responsibility – you need Paul in your corner.

Recognised for his ability to combine keen insight with practical advice about legal risk management, governance and due diligence, investigations and enforcement action, including prosecutions…

If the health and safety of your people are your responsibility – you need Paul in your corner.

Recognised for his ability to combine keen insight with practical advice about legal risk management, governance and due diligence, investigations and enforcement action, including prosecutions – he’s a specialist in the health and safety requirements in Australia, and globally.

From briefing your board on responsibilities to being alongside you when the unimaginable happens, Paul’s clients are confident he will be there when and wherever needed.

Photo of Ben Dudley Ben Dudley

Fascinated by what the workplaces of the future will look like – and loves to debate how things will change to get us there – Ben can take you, your organisation and your workforce into tomorrow.

While he doesn’t have perfect foresight (and…

Fascinated by what the workplaces of the future will look like – and loves to debate how things will change to get us there – Ben can take you, your organisation and your workforce into tomorrow.

While he doesn’t have perfect foresight (and who does?) his experience working with major employers and supporting their legal needs has given him the in-depth understanding needed to help organisations future-proof their workforces.

Motivated by high-risk and high-value industrial relations and employment challenges. When protecting you and the interests of your workforce, Ben is as comfortable visiting your manufacturing site as he is representing you in the court room.

Photo of Chris Gardner Chris Gardner

“Strategic”. That’s how clients consistently describe Chris.

Starting with the end in mind, he understands that legal advice is only one piece of the jigsaw when balancing strategy and risk.

Clients know they’ll receive advice that fits into the bigger picture.

Best recognised…

“Strategic”. That’s how clients consistently describe Chris.

Starting with the end in mind, he understands that legal advice is only one piece of the jigsaw when balancing strategy and risk.

Clients know they’ll receive advice that fits into the bigger picture.

Best recognised for workplace change and enterprise bargaining, Chris’ work has seen him at the forefront of engagements that matter. Countless employers have benefited from the pragmatic and solution-orientated advice that he is known for.

You may have seen him in Boss magazine, heard him on Qantas Q Radio or Foxtel’s Law TV. He is also famous for his collection of Elvis artefacts.

Photo of Erin Hawthorne Erin Hawthorne

Erin enjoys using the opportunities presented by difficult employment and industrial problems to deliver outcomes for her clients.

She has worked in both private practice and in-house roles and uses her experience of being a client to deliver the best legal strategy through…

Erin enjoys using the opportunities presented by difficult employment and industrial problems to deliver outcomes for her clients.

She has worked in both private practice and in-house roles and uses her experience of being a client to deliver the best legal strategy through a lens of practicality.

An experienced litigator representing employers when litigation is unavoidable or advantageous, she has the game plan needed to protect or attack.

Photo of Sarah Goodhew Sarah Goodhew

For nearly 15 years, Sarah has worked with a range of clients—predominantly in the resources, retail, and transport sectors—in responding to regulator investigations, preparing and defending work health and safety prosecutions, and representing clients at coronial inquests. During this time, Sarah has gained…

For nearly 15 years, Sarah has worked with a range of clients—predominantly in the resources, retail, and transport sectors—in responding to regulator investigations, preparing and defending work health and safety prosecutions, and representing clients at coronial inquests. During this time, Sarah has gained a valuable working knowledge of various aspects of client operations that provides a practical, realistic aspect to her legal advice—from the intricate knowledge of how her clients operations work, to how her clients distinguish themselves in their market.

Photo of Darren Perry Darren Perry

Operating with an encyclopedic memory, Darren can recall, apply and develop strategies across all aspects of employment and industrial relations law. This ability to quickly isolate and un-complicate issues is the reason his clients value his advice.

At the forefront of his practice…

Operating with an encyclopedic memory, Darren can recall, apply and develop strategies across all aspects of employment and industrial relations law. This ability to quickly isolate and un-complicate issues is the reason his clients value his advice.

At the forefront of his practice is an understanding of how artificial intelligence and robotics have and will continue to shape the workforces of the future.

From port operators to Australia’s biggest banks, Darren regularly advises on how to manage workforces in the context of technological disruption and substantial structural changes.

Photo of Henry Skene Henry Skene

At the forefront of new law, in areas where many others dread to walk, Henry is at his finest.

For legal advice to be truly effective, it must seize an opportunity or solve a problem, aligned with an organisation strategy – exactly what…

At the forefront of new law, in areas where many others dread to walk, Henry is at his finest.

For legal advice to be truly effective, it must seize an opportunity or solve a problem, aligned with an organisation strategy – exactly what Henry is known for. Delivering solutions that innovate and focus on the long term. Commercially-minded and outcomes-driven, he is uncompromising when advancing the interests of employers and business owners.

His novel application of conventional principles does not stop at the elevator, it continues in his various entrepreneurial interests in farming, viticulture, bee keeping and diamonds.

Photo of Michael Tamvakologos Michael Tamvakologos

When clients were asked what they valued most in Michael, one client responded “He is very sharp, quick and commercial, and very good at building relationships with the commercial side of our business; you can put him in front of the CEO or…

When clients were asked what they valued most in Michael, one client responded “He is very sharp, quick and commercial, and very good at building relationships with the commercial side of our business; you can put him in front of the CEO or anyone else and know he won’t let you down”, Chambers.

What makes Michael more than a stand-out strategic litigator sought after by leading multi-nationals, is a MBA at INSEAD University (rated by the Financial Times as the No 1 MBA in the world in 2017) which is reinforcing an understanding of the commercial side of your organisation.