SMEs may be granted greater flexibility to employ workers on a contractual basis if the government moves forward with a plan to relax workplace laws governing independent contractors.
An issues paper for the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Australia’s workplace relation laws is due to be released tomorrow and is expected to include a focus on self-employed and independent contracting laws. Any recommendations could form the basis of changes to the Fair Work Act later this year.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Small Business Minster Bruce Billson would not confirm or deny any specific changes to contracting law, but says the government has been pushing for clarification and more support for independent contractors as Australia’s workforce changes.
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Billson says there are currently “quaint characteristics” to laws surrounding independent contractors and “inconsistencies” in the way the laws are implemented.
“I’d like to see clarity and certainty so small business isn’t left wondering what regulators and government agencies might come up with next,” says Billson.
“We want a more surefooted and certain environment for individuals seeking to make contributions to the economy in the very legitimate way.”
Billson blamed the “self-serving union movement” of the previous Labor government for making it more difficult for businesses and the self-employed.
“Fair Work was tasked at the behest of the union agenda, making life for independent and self-employed contractors more difficult than needed to be,” he adds.
The number of independent contractors across the country has fallen from 1.1 million in 2010 to 986,000 in 2013, according to The Australian Financial Review.
Billson says modern employment law needs to address such issues as the rise in mature age workers and freelancers.
He says the government is looking at the issue through four avenues of recommendations, including tax reform recommendations in the recently released tax white paper, the Auditor General’s report, the Harper Review and through the overarching Productivity Commission inquiry.
“We welcome input and evidence from stakeholders and of course the small business community,” says Billson.