Workplace Relations System Should Work Better For Small Business

06 Jul 2018 |

“Working Better for Small Business” a new report commissioned and released by the Fair Work Commission today, highlights some of the challenges the workplace relations system presents for the small businesses which comprise over 90 percent of businesses in Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today.

“When it comes to dealing with the Fair Work Commission, many small businesses simply don’t have the experience or resources to navigate the legalities,” Australian Chamber CEO, James Pearson, said today.

The report acknowledges that small businesses want to do the right thing by their people, but they run into trouble when trying to accommodate the flexibility employees ask for because of Australia’s complex and clunky award system.

“A common example in the report is employees wanting to swap shifts with each other at short notice to suit their needs – for example around commitments such as caring and study,” Mr Pearson said.

“Often employers have to knock back such requests, even though they would like to be helpful, because allowing it will attract additional financial penalties under many awards.

“That’s an expense small business often can’t afford.

The report reveals that many small businesses see modern awards as complex and having severe consequences for making mistakes. That’s why many small businesses won’t engage with awards, and instead have to bring in a specialist from outside.

“Smaller enterprises think that enterprise bargaining is out of reach. That’s a problem because enterprise bargaining has previously been promoted as one of the ways in which small business can get more flexibility,” Mr Pearson said.

“This report is a timely reminder Australia’s workplace relations laws effectively assume all employers are large, sophisticated, well-resourced and used to dealing with trade unions.

“This is simply not true for most Australian businesses.

“While the recommendations don’t go far enough to address wholesale and critical problems with the system, we welcome discussion of ways to ensure Fair Work Commission decisions are more predictable, small businesses are better supported during the claims process, and that more matters can be resolved without costly and damaging litigation.

“The Australian Chamber welcomes recommendations to focus better on the needs of smaller businesses. That includes the possible creation of a small business division of the Fair Work Commission.

“We need to make the workplace relations system more relevant to the people who use it.”

Duncan Bremner

Director - Public Affairs and Advocacy

P  |  0448 822 666

E  |  [email protected]

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