How small businesses can master the moving IR law goalposts

- May 16, 2024 3 MIN READ

The twists and turns that come with life as a small Aussie business are complicated enough, facing challenges from the economy and talent retention, all the while needing to stay up to date with IR laws moving too fast for many to keep up. So, what can you do to stay ahead? Stephen Duncan, Head of People at the Access Group shares his tips.

In just a year and a half, IR legislation has shifted three times, with the ‘right to disconnect’ making the accurate accounting of employee work hours, tasks and responsibilities critical to get right so boundaries can be set without dispute. Changes like these trip up so many small businesses, not due to malice, rather a simple lack of resources to stay ahead of the game.

A read and react strategy simply won’t cut it anymore. Hefty penalties, a loss of talent and hits to a company’s reputation have proven too much for the unprepared, rather, a proactive approach has become the only reliable solution for businesses to play by the rules.

Here are three ways to safeguard your business (and ensure you’re playing by the rules, no matter how fast they change:

1. Know Your Stuff:

To be ahead of the game, you must know the field you’re playing on. Regulatory bodies like the Fair Work Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman have cheat sheets for your business in the form of newsletters and seminars. These should be a must for your HR person or team, no matter the size of your business.

If your resources allow, seeking the advice of legal experts can also provide valuable insights into upcoming changes and their implications as this will help you create your own process guide.

2. Put regular audits in the calendar

Ensuring this is a scheduled practice for your organisation means that nothing slips between the cracks. Every six months should see time blocked out to run through the nitty gritty of your practice, with additional audits for substantive law changes as they are introduced.

Many view this step as a time-consuming chore that takes manpower away from regular operations. However, more emphasis should be placed on the costs of not conducting due diligence. Regular audits are a small price to pay to ensure your business avoids the hefty penalties and potential talent loss of assuming all is well under the hood.

3. Don’t be scared of technology

If your small business is an all-hands-on-deck operation or if your large enterprise is spread far and wide, it’s natural to push back against the idea of introducing a new workflow tool and interrupting business as usual. While an onboarding process will be necessary, there are cost-effective compliance solutions right for businesses of all sizes waiting for those with the foresight to seek them out. With the onus of compliance being on the employer, modernising your workforce management solution through technology will allow anomalies in employee activity to be captured, processed and reported on proactively. Once implemented, you will see a return in time going back to you and your team with the peace of mind that everything is running above board.

As a small business you’ve got plenty on your mind already, but taking this proactive approach lets you focus on what your business does best. With employees wanting more inclusion and consideration within their roles, this is an excellent opportunity to listen to their thoughts and involve them in decisions that will impact them the most.

It’s inevitable that changes will continue to be introduced and catch flat-footed businesses off guard. It’s the ones that remain limber and flexible that are the ones most likely to stay afloat.

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