Simpler retail and hospitality awards could be on the horizon: Fair Work Commission

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Simpler retail and hospitality awards could be on the horizon: Fair Work Commission

Businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors could see simpler awards in the next few years, according to Justice Iain Ross from the Fair Work Commission.

The Fair Work Commission is currently redrafting the national pharmacy award with the aim of using plainer language for small business owners.

Depending on the reaction from business groups and unions, the commission will then use the same approach to update awards for the retail and hospitality industries.

Read more: Fair work giving employers and workers different answers on pay and conditions: Eric Abetz

Speaking at COSBOA’s Microeconomic Challenge in Sydney, Ross said he is of the belief that an award should be able to be read without the need to hire a lawyer.

“We want clear, plain English materials and we want simpler awards,” Ross says.

“We’ve done a number of things to address that. We’re currently working on a plain English kit on how to make a workplace agreement under the Fair Work Act. We’re close to finalising that project, but we’re a little trapped by the legislation and how it tells us it has to be done.”

Ross says the commission is also doing a range of other things to help small business, including educating small business owners about how Fair Work Commission hearings operate.

Parties to Fair Work Commission cases will also soon be able to lodge their documents online, rather than send them to the commission in the post.

Ross says appearing before the Fair Work Commission can be a “traumatic experience”, which is why the commission now provides a checklist for employers who are representing themselves at an unfair dismissal hearing.

“There is room to transform the system into a more useable framework,” Ross says.

“If you’re a large business like Coles, they’re constantly in and have people who have expertise in the area and have people familiar with the environment.

“But how do we deal with small businesses or individual employers who are likely to only have one engagement with us?”

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Broede Carmody is a former senior reporter at SmartCompany. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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