Business groups cautiously welcome new IR regime

The Council of Small Business Organsiations of Australia has applauded the new fair dismissal code’s one warning system, which its chief executive Tony Steven helped develop with Federal Small Business Minister Craig Emerson.

The Council of Small Business Organsiations of Australia has applauded the new fair dismissal code’s one warning system, which its chief executive Tony Steven helped develop with Federal Small Business Minister Craig Emerson.

“Small business can be pleased with the outcome as this tool provides a simple checklist to follow which ensures employers can be protected from fraudulent unfair dismissal claims,” Steven says.

But other business groups have reacted cautiously to Workplace Minister Julia Gillard’s new IR regime.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s director of workplace policy Scott Barklamb is quick to emphasise that the detail given by Gillard yesterday creates as many questions as it answers.

“It’s an intermediate set of details. It’s welcome that she’s given it to us, but it’s a mid-way point.”

Barklamb says that on the face of it, the unfair dismissal code looks reasonable. “If the code operates as intended, it will provide a far more balanced system than simply just removing unfair dismissal.”

But the ACCI has some concern about how the code will work in practice and whether it will actually keep litigation to a minimum as promised. The Government is selling the code as being so simple to use that most employers should never face unfair dismissal action – but will that really be the case in the real world?

“That’s a pretty steep hurdle and let’s see if that’s actually the case,” Barklamb says. “Will the code be able to stand up to the appetite of an aggrieved individual in a litigious world?”

Barklamb says the ACCI is also concerned that the unfair dismissal code will be introduced six months before the rest of the workplace relations system.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout says the restrictions on bargaining content, the tough stance on unprotected industrial action and the simplicity of the fair dismissal code for small business are all welcome.

But she is concerned the proposals regarding access to compulsory arbitration of disputes are too broad and the precise way new collective bargaining and industry-wide bargaining provisions will work.

Her other big concern is the timetable for implementation.

“The Government’s desire to have in place the unfair dismissals and bargaining arrangements by the middle of 2009 appears very ambitious,” Ridout says. “This is particularly so given that Fair Work Australia and the new award system will not be in place and that the proposed reforms will require a massive education effort for business and industry.”

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