Workplace relations system “not working for small business”: COSBOA tells National Press Club

The Council of Small Business has taken to the stage at the National Press Club to say that Australia’s workplace laws are “not working” for small businesses.

Peter Strong, executive director of COSBOA, used an address to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday to call on government not to ignore small business.

“The various business systems in Australia are designed for the 4% of businesses, for the big end of town with experts and time and resources and money,” Strong said.

“The tax system, the corporate system, the financial system, most compliance demands, competition policy, contract law, OH&S and the workplace relations system are all about the big end.”

Strong pointed to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Retail Campaign report, which found 26% of retailers were non-compliant when it came to industrial relations laws.

The contraventions related to underpayment of wages, failure to conform to payslip requirements and failure to adhere to time and wage requirements.

However, the report found that department stores only had non-compliance of 2.5%.

“Proving my point that the system is designed for paymasters – we need a system designed for the small workplace,” Strong said.

But Strong did have some praise for the Fair Work Ombudsman, which he said had changed “from a belligerent employer-hating mob of lefties to more professional, engaging public servants”.

Strong told SmartCompany the address to the Press Club had offered an opportunity to raise small businesses’ concerns that the workplace relations system is “designed for paymasters and experts” rather than small business

“What came out of the address was I got the chance to say again, again and again that we are not like big business,” he says.

“I basically said the system is not working for us as we can’t get a guarantee on how much to pay our workers and the system fails the workers as well.

“We really need to focus on small workplaces; most workplaces are small but the system is designed for paymasters.”

In his address, Strong also called for changes to workplace rules that would see award rates determined by the size of a small business rather than the industry it is in.

“We need a system for the small workplace, a system where everyone in the workplace can get guaranteed advice and where conflict is minimised,” said Strong.

He said a small business award based on size is one answer and would enable a simpler system.

“If you are employing one person it is a very different scenario than if you employ millions,” Strong told SmartCompany.

Strong told the Press Club that competition policy and contract law was also negatively impacting the small workplace, with employers under obligations to collect GST, fill out Business Activity Statements and collect PAYG and superannuation.

“So why do governments and their agencies and the unions make it so hard to do these things?” Strong said.

“They also ask us to collect superannuation and send it to private sector multi-billion dollar financial institutions. We must do that for nothing in our time and we will get fined if we don’t.”



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