The peak small business group is calling for changes to workplace rules that would see award rates determined by the size of a business rather than the industry it is in.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, expressed his disappointment over the recent review of the Fair Work Act at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.
Strong said he thought the review forgot to read COSBOA’s submission, which was given “no thought”.
Last week, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten released the long-awaited review of the Fair Work Act by a government-appointed panel, which made 53 recommendations.
However, the review was branded “bitterly disappointing” by Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“It takes a Pollyanna view of the industrial relations system, especially its hope that union problems experienced by employers will cure themselves,” Anderson said.
Speaking on Wednesday, Strong said small businesses are struggling to comply with IR laws, pointing to a Fair Work Ombudsman report published in January.
The report found 26% of retailers are non-compliant with IR laws. Contraventions include failure to conform with pay slip requirements, and failure to adhere to time and wage requirements.
Strong said this figure is too high, which suggests the system is failing.
“So, if you’ve got a paymaster, you’re fine. If you don’t have a paymaster… you will have trouble with the Fair Work Act,” he said.
COSBOA is calling for a new award specifically for small businesses, which would require the Fair Work Ombudsman to be “on nobody’s side”, referring to employees and employers.
“Then we can start making decisions based on what’s happening in the workplace, not what’s happening in the legislation,” Strong said.
The award would make it easier to determine how much to pay workers at rates discoverable by an employer on ringing the Ombudsman.
It would also see award rates determined by the size of a business rather than the industry it is in.
The news comes on the back of a Federal Government inquiry into workplace bullying. The inquiry has been told workplace bullying is likely to increase as economic conditions worsen, and staff and companies come under increasing pressure.
Testifying during the House of Representatives inquiry, UnionsWA president Meredith Hammat said national workers’ compensation claims for harassment have almost doubled in three years.
She said the problem is likely to get worse as organisations downsize and restructure in response to the global economic downturn.
According to Hammat, bullying remains largely underreported because many victims simply switch jobs.