Julia Gillard has given conflicting views level of knowledge amongst the community about the Rudd Government’s Fair Work industrial relations reform, first claiming that the changes have not “snuck up on anyone” before, then announcing the Government will spend $13 million to educate employers and employees about the changes.
Yesterday SmartCompany highlighted a lack of information from the Government about the new IR laws, which come into effect from 1 July.
Jaye Radisich, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, said the lack of information was so bad that she was warning SMEs not to hire or fire without first getting independent legal advice.
Heather Ridout, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, says employers face “substantial challenges in understanding the new requirements”.
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“While some companies are better prepared than others, there is a general sense of unease and uncertainty about what the changes will mean in the work place. No one can underestimate the scale of change the new laws will bring.”
Until yesterday, the Government had not even launched its website fairwork.gov.au, which contains information for employers and employees. However, many of the fact sheets on the site are labeled ‘coming soon’.
Gillard dismissed claims that businesses have been left in the dark.
“These changes have not snuck up on anyone, they are the changes we took to the Australian people at the last election and follow an unprecedented level of consultation with all relevant stakeholders,” she said.
But Gillard also announced $12.9 million in funding for 19 business groups and unions to run education.
According to a statement from Gillard, “a key focus of this phase of the program is to ensure employers, particularly small businesses, learn about the new system and comply with it, including new aspects such as the Fair Dismissal Code for Small Business”.
These education programs will presumably be rolled out over the coming months, but that may be too late for unsuspecting SMEs who get caught out under the new laws.
In order to assist business owners understand the new laws. SmartCompany has put together a special page of resources written by our team of workplace lawyers and legal experts. It can be found at here.