Welcome to the June 2023 HR Law Newsletter.  This month, we discuss some upcoming legislative changes with a focus on high-income employees.  We also discuss a recent case, in which an employer was held vicariously liable for the actions of its supervisor, who committed an intentional assault on a team member.


Along with the increase to the national minimum wage, modern awards and superannuation (see our May Newsletter), the Fair Work Commission has announced the following increases effective 1 July 2023.

  • High-Income Threshold: The high-income threshold will increase from $162,000.00 to $167,500.00 for FY2023/2024.  Employees who earn above this threshold may be excluded from making an unfair dismissal claim unless they are covered by an award or agreement.
  • Maximum Compensation Unfair Dismissal Claims: The maximum compensation for unfair dismissal claims will increase from $81,000.00 to $83,750.00 for dismissals occurring on or after 1 July 2023.  This amount is set at half of the high-income threshold.
  • Filing Fees: The filing fees for various applications under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“FW Act”) will also increase. Specifically, the filing fee for unfair dismissal, general protections, and anti-bullying/sexual harassment applications made under sections 365, 372, 394, 773, 789FC, and 527J of the FW Act will increase from $77.80 to $83.30.  There is no fee to make an application to deal with a sexual harassment dispute under section 527F of the FW Act.


As defined in section 329 of the FW Act, an employee is a high-income employee if:

  • the employee has a guarantee of annual earnings (“Guarantee”) for the guaranteed period;
  • the time occurs during the period; and
  • the annual rate of the Guarantee exceeds the high-income threshold at that time.

Modern awards:

  • do not apply to “high-income employees”;
  • do apply to employees earning more than the high-income threshold who have not been given a guarantee of annual earnings.

The FW Act sets out rules for giving a Guarantee to an employee. 

To satisfy the FW Act, a Guarantee must be in writing and contain the following information:

  • the annual rate of the Guarantee (including wages, superannuation and non-monetary benefits e.g. private vehicle);
  • an undertaking and employee acceptance; and
  • a Guarantee period.

The employer must also notify the employee of the consequences of accepting the Guarantee.

What does the high-income threshold increase mean for employers?

Employers must ensure that from 1 July 2023, any employees with guaranteed earnings above the high-income threshold are continued to be paid above the high-income threshold. Otherwise, employers risk these employees being caught by a modern award they believed did not apply, being able to make an unfair dismissal claim and/or being able to make a breach of contract claim, where the employer has breached a guarantee of annual earnings provided under a contract of employment.

What action must be taken?

  • Review the rate of pay or salary for high-income employees who have guaranteed annual earnings above the high-income threshold.
  • Determine if these employees will continue to be paid above the high-income threshold from 1 July 2023.
  • If this is not the case, update payroll to ensure that these employees are paid above the high-income threshold.  

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when it comes to high-income employees.  If you have high-income employees and require advice on meeting your legal obligations, or you are considering entering into a high-income guarantee with an employee, contact HR Law today.  


In a recent workers’ compensation case, Mason v State of Queensland [2023] QDC 80, an employer has been found vicariously liable for an intentional and unlawful assault committed by a supervisor against a team member, as well as for subsequent retaliatory actions by the supervisor and other employees, involving verbal abuse as a result of reporting the incident.

The Facts

Mr Mason was employed as a custodial corrections officer at the Woodford Correctional Centre, working under Queensland Corrective Services.

On 22 January 2017, in the presence of other officers, Mr Mason had a disagreement with his supervisor, which resulted in the supervisor punching Mr Mason in the abdomen. Following the assault, the supervisor made comments suggesting that he had “just accosted” Mr Mason and that the other officers should comply. Despite feeling shocked, confused, and embarrassed, Mr Mason tried to downplay the incident by laughing it off.

A few days later, Mr Mason’s section manager, having been informed about the incident, asked Mr Mason to file a report. Although Mr Mason expressed concerns about potential repercussions for reporting the incident, the section manager reassured him, and Mr Mason completed the report.  Mr Mason then faced verbal retaliation from both the supervisor who assaulted him and other staff members.

On 15 February 2017, after working under the supervisor for three days, Mr Mason approached the acting operations manager, expressing his discomfort with continuing to work under the same supervisor.  As a result, he was immediately reassigned to another area, and later that day, the section manager offered him access to the employee assistance program.

Despite these actions, the verbal reprisals persisted. On 2 March 2017, Mr Mason reported the ongoing issues to the section manager, who indicated that it would be brought to the attention of management.

On 9 March 2017, Mr Mason obtained a medical certificate for time off work and subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim.  Ultimately, the supervisor responsible for the assault was charged and convicted of common assault.

Allegations and Evidence Presented

Mr Mason alleged that his employer:

  • was vicariously liable for the supervisor’s assault on him; and
  • failed to provide him with adequate support following the assault and the retaliatory behaviour of other employees.

The employer argued:

  • that Mr Mason was not a credible witness, particularly regarding his perception of his treatment in the workplace after the incident; and
  • in this instance, it had implemented a specific policy, which outlined the support and protection offered to individuals making “public interest disclosures.” However, the ethical standards unit officer who investigated the assault gave evidence that the employer had not provided the required protection or support.


Despite the employer’s attempts to challenge Mr Mason’s credibility, Judge Long found his testimony to be honest and reliable.  Judge Long concluded that the employer was vicariously liable for the supervisor’s assault on Mr Mason.  In reaching this decision, Judge Long:

  • found that the section manager’s evidence largely supported Mr Mason’s version of events, particularly regarding his concerns about potential retaliation when asked to report the incident;
  • relied on the supervisor’s immediate statement after the assault, indicating that he had “accosted” Mr Mason; and
  • determined that the assault was not a result of personal animosity or emotional outbursts between colleagues but rather a “wrongful form of management” by a superior, carried out within the authority granted by the employer.

Additionally, Judge Long found that the employer had a duty to take reasonable care in protecting Mr Mason from retaliation and providing necessary support, especially considering Mr Mason’s expressed concerns about reprisals upon reporting the incident. The Judge noted that the employer’s duty went beyond offering counselling through the employee assistance program. The employer’s failure to ensure Mr Mason was not scheduled to work under the supervisor after the assault and the employer’s subsequent lack of follow-up constituted a breach of duty and its own policy.

Judge Long acknowledged that while Mr Mason may have had some pre-existing vulnerability, the assault was the primary cause of his injury, with the subsequent events exacerbating and perpetuating his harm. Consequently, Mr Mason was awarded $148,114.85 in damages, excluding any statutory refund.

Key Takeaway

This case serves as a warning to employers that they can be held liable for intentional and unlawful assaults committed by their employees, particularly where the assault is a form of pseudo-management.

Further, this case emphasises the importance of addressing psychosocial hazards in the workplace, including issues such as workplace violence, bullying, and harassment. Employers are expected to take proactive steps to identify and manage these hazards, providing a safe and healthy work environment that promotes psychological well-being.

HR Law encourages Queensland employers to review the “Managing the Risk of Psychosocial Hazards at Work Code of Practice 2022” (“the Code”), which came into effect on 1 April 2023.  The Code is a practical guide on how to prevent harm from psychosocial hazards at work, including psychological and physical harm.  A copy of the Code can be found here.

To read the case, click here.


Recently, Sarah Neideck, Partner of HR Law hosted a Restructures, Redundancies and Consultation Webinar. 

In this complementary Webinar, Sarah delved into the consultation obligations an employer must consider when undertaking a business restructure.  Sarah discussed:

  • What is consultation?
  • When do you have to engage in consultation – is it really necessary?
  • What are the consequences if you do not engage in consultation?

To access the recording of the Webinar, click here.


If you are not already connected with us and you would like to keep up to date with topical employment law matters, please follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our email updates.

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The content of this newsletter is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter.  Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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