The prime minister Scott Morrison has announced the Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter will work with the attorney general and small business advocates to review the workplace relations system to relax red tape and provide a fairer deal for small business owners.
The move was welcomed by small business owners and their advocates, however, the nation’s unions have described the planned review as an attack on worker’s rights.
The PM announced the review at a meeting of business leaders at the WA Chamber of Commerce, Monday, saying: “Our job post-election is now very clear – to get Australians off the economic sidelines and on the field again”.
The PM’s assistant, Ben Morton has been tasked with assessing the level of bureaucratic red tape small businesses currently face when engaging with the system, while Porter will focus on the role of unions and the proposed Ensuring Integrity Bill.
The Bill is aimed at curtailing ‘militant’ unions and has been heavily criticised by the opposition and the trade union movement.
“Every single worker benefits from the work of unions, attacking unions is another way of attacking every worker’s rights,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.
However, the proposal to reduce red tape has been welcomed by small business owners who have lobbied for changes to Australia’s complex industrial relations laws for some time.
Speaking to the Canberra Times, James Pearson CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says businesses have been calling for an industrial relations system that tied down by red tape.
“We cannot afford for Australia’s workplace relations framework to remain a barrier to improved competitiveness and productivity,” Pearson said.
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell welcomed the workplace relations review, suggesting it will reinvigorate the system and provide fairer conditions for small business owners.
“The overwhelming view among small businesses is the legislation is far too complicated, particularly for those with less than 20 employees and no expert HR or legal departments,” Carnell said.
“We have already identified a number of simple steps to tackle the overly complex industrial relations system for small businesses that would make a real difference to the sector.
Amongst the ASBFEO’s recommendations are a review of the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code, to ensure there are adequate provisions to protect small business employers from an unfair dismissal claim.
“We know that the current protections in place are not doing the job that was originally intended,” said Carnell.
“If this and other recommendations are implemented, it will level the playing field for small business who want to do the right thing and empower the Fair Work Ombudsman to deal with businesses that don’t.
Carnell suggested a clear and simple workplace relations system would be more user-friendly and give small business the boost in confidence they need to hire workers.