Cost to business and simplicity key concerns in government submission to FWC wage review

The federal government wants the cost to business and straightforward terms to be front and centre of the Fair Work Commission’s upcoming review into award wages.

In a submission to the FWC, the government said “the Commission should take into account the need to ensure a simple, easy to understand modern awards system when setting and varying modern awards”.

It said the current awards can be “difficult to interpret” due to the “high degree of detail”.

“They can be particularly confusing for small business operators and individual employees who generally do not have specialist workplace relations experience.”

The “softening economic environment and labour market” should also be considered, it said, as should the impact of employment costs on employers’ decisions to hire new staff over the next four years that the revised award is in place.

“The government submits that modern awards should support job creation,” it said.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman told SmartCompany the submission indicates the government is trying to let “business get on with business”.

“It wants to encourage employment and stimulate the economy,” he says.

Zimmerman says that there is a lot in the submission for the FWC to consider and the ARA will be “keeping a close eye on every aspect of the review” as it progresses.

“As an industry association, anything that Fair Work does to enhance and support retailers will be welcome,” he says.

“We will be watching for any rises in cost to employers and looking at ways for businesses to do business well.”

The government’s submission follows comments from Employment Minister Eric Abetz at a Sydney Institute speech last week that the modern awards system is too complex, the Australian Financial Review reports.

Abetz has also said Australia risks a “wages explosion” if bosses keep yielding to workers and unions requesting pay rises, the ABC reports.

The ABC also reports unions have been quick to attack the submission for being too focused on employers not workers.

“This is the government backing employers by proxy,” Australian Council of Trade Unions spokesman Tim Lyons said.

The FWC is reviewing 122 modern awards that were implemented in 2010, and concern the wage conditions of employees. The review is due to commence this week.

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