Stressed police, paramedics could get better protection

Emergency workers with post-traumatic stress could soon be offered greater protection but politicians are squabbling over the best way to introduce the reforms.

Four key changes to the Fair Work Act have cleared the Senate.

One stops police, paramedics and firefighters from having to prove they got PTSD from their job before accessing compensation and puts the onus on insurers to prove otherwise in order to block the payments.

The other amendments stop employers from discriminating against workers facing domestic violence, protect redundancy payments and bring silica dust in line with asbestos rules.

Independent senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie moved the amendments, which were plucked from broader changes to industrial relations put forward by the Albanese government.

Senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie
Senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie pushed for the amendments.

Labor refused to split its industrial bill, but the opposition and crossbench MPs joined forces to push the four proposals through the upper house in separate legislation.

They'll need to be ticked off by the government-controlled lower house before becoming law.

Senator Lambie urged the government to get it done.

"We don't need to be arguing about domestic violence," she told ABC radio on Friday.

Labor wants to wait for a parliamentary inquiry into its bill - due to report back in February - before moving ahead.

Australian Council of Trade Union president Michele O'Neil said the four provisions were important, "but no more important or urgent than the rest of the bill".

"Every element of this bill is urgently needed to increase wages, ensure safe workplaces and close big business loopholes."

She also called for further amendments, saying changes could include expanding the definition of first responders so that security guards at hospitals and frontline adjacent workers.

Andrew McKellar of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Chamber of Commerce CEO Andrew McKellar (centre) says wider reforms will destroy jobs.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar told a Senate inquiry examining the laws the peak body backed the non-contentious measures.

However, he was critical of the remaining measures, saying they would hamper productivity.

"These changes will create further complexity, uncertainty and create confusion for employers attempting to navigate the new obligations," he told the committee.

"These changes will inhibit productivity growth, which is essential to the achievement of sustainable increases in real wages, and to address the higher cost of living."