Business concerned over Labor award extension plan

A Labor request for the industrial relations umpire to create a new catch-all award has raised concerns that it may result in previously independent businesses being drawn into the award system.

The request came as Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard released the final of the 10 National Employment Standards that will cover all employees from the start of 2010.

Employer groups say there are no surprises in the NES and applauded the Government’s extensive consultation process leading up to their release.

“”The National Employment Standards announced today have been improved through the consultation process and appear to be workable,” Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout says. “But clearly if problems are identified through the AIRC award modernisation process, the Government should further fine tune the standards.”

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson says the Government has steered away from any extreme new measures in the NES provisions, but says businesses may not welcome new duties, for example to pay employees for up to 10 days of jury duty or to allow employees to use sick leave even when they are on annual leave.

And, Anderson says, he is concerned over Gillard’s request to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to create a new award to cover employees who are not presently covered by and “who perform work of a similar nature to that which has historically been regulated by awards”.

“There will need to be consultation between industry and government on that proposal,” Anderson says. “It does raise concerns that awards could be extended to employers that have not previously been covered.”

Managerial staff in retail business, some salaried lawyers or white collar professionals and salaried medical officers are among the staff categories that could risk being drawn into awards, Anderson says.

“The Government has previously said it doesn’t want to extend coverage, but what we don’t want to see is a small pocket of employees covered in one state extended to previously uncovered employees across the country,” Anderson says.

What do you think about the new employment standards? What don’t you like? What’s missing? Send your views to [email protected].

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