Small business roundtable: Workplace relations, Fair Work laws and red tape on the agenda

The Coalition has been working on establishing a Small Business Ministerial Advisory Council to provide the government with advice on small business priorities, competition and consumer policies, Small Business Minister Bruce Billson said at a small business roundtable on Friday.

Issues such as workplace relations, the paid parental leave scheme and the Fair Work Act were on the agenda at the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Building and Construction Commission roundtable with over 20 small business groups.

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson gave a speech at the forum addressing the concerns of small business and what the Coalition is doing to help.

In the speech, obtained by SmartCompany, Billson says the Coalition sees small business as “the future of the over-the-horizon economy”.

“We believe there is huge potential for small business to contribute to the growth of the economy and boost employment,” he says.

“But we have to make it easier for small business to employ people.”

To help small business be compliant with workplace laws, Billson announced at the roundtable the Coalition is developing a mobile-friendly wages tool due to be completed in April.

A spokesperson for the Fair Work Ombudsman told SmartCompany discussions centred on how “the Fair Work agencies can better work together to support small business”.

“The discussion highlighted the broad support for ongoing dialogue between the Fair Work agencies and business groups and a further roundtable is planned for later this year,” the spokesperson says.

“The next step for the Fair Work Ombudsman is to debrief the discussion and use the outcomes to continue supporting the small business community.”

The recently established FWO small business strategy team has been tasked with responding to the needs of small business.

The FWO spokesperson did not further elaborate on what was discussed or what the outcomes will be, however, Bruce Billson says in his speech a key priority is ensuring the workplace relations system is “fair and sensible”.

“To do this, we have to take an economy wide look at the current landscape which not only looks at wages but also barriers to employment and investment by business,” he says.

“We have a number of new initiatives that we are working on delivering can help small business owners train and hire people.

“One such program is the Seniors Incentive Program, which offers a payment to business owners to encourage employers to take on mature job seekers aged 50 and over. Another is the Tasmanian Jobs Program, whereby small businesses in Tasmania are eligible for a one-off payment when they hire an unemployed jobseeker.”

The Coalition has recently introduced amendments to the Fair Work Act which address union militancy, individual flexibility arrangements and workplace bullying.

Workplace flexibility has been a focus of the Coalition government, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme also aims to help couples balance work and family, although the scheme has been criticised as overly generous.

In his speech Billson also emphasised the importance of cutting red tape, saying the Coalition has already passed legislation to save businesses $44 million a year so they no longer act as the pay master for the PPL scheme and have shifted the superannuation clearing house to the ATO.

“We are serious about deregulation and we will implement real measures to reduce red and green tape by $1 billion a year. Removing red tape on employers gives them more time and energy to do what they do best — which is to grow their business and employ more people,” he says.


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