Small business calls for Fair Work Act review

By Oliver Milman
Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Federal Government has come under pressure to review Australia’s workplace laws, with a small business lobby group claiming that SMEs find the current regime “confusing”.


The Fair Work Act was introduced two years ago, with industry pay awards harmonised across Australia.


The Government says that the new regime has proved successful for employers and employees, but small businesses have attacked the legislation for being confusing and lacking flexibility.


Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says that there should be an early review of the Fair Work Act, to bring “certainty” to small firms.


“The current system is costing jobs, is confusing and causing mistakes to be made and is certainly not friendly to small business people or their employees,” he says.


“When big business associations and the head of the RBA notice the problem then you can be assured the problem has been around a long time and is impacting on people in small business in a disproportionate way."


“There are many examples of people missing out on Sunday and public holiday employment because the Fair Work Act added penalties that often made employment on those days to be unprofitable.”


People who can work on those days, and often only on those days, are university students, school students and stay at home mums and dads.

“These are people who need work to get money to survive. That work has been taken from them by the current workplace policies."


COSBOA says that a review will unearth unfairness in the current awards system and highlight the difficulty employers have in finding out how much to pay staff, despite the threat of a fine for getting it wrong.


"For too long the processes have been designed by big business and unions to meet their particular needs, and the needs of small business was neglected,” Strong says.


“Small business make up over 90% of all employers, there are some one million of us, and we employ about half the workforce.”


“Our needs are much more important than big business who have pay clerks and the like to manage their processes. In these times of economic uncertainty let's add some certainty to the workplace."


Chris Evans, the Workplace Minister, told the ABC that he doesn’t agree that the Fair Work Act has negatively impacted small businesses.


"It is true that retail is doing it tough at the moment, and I know that's putting pressure on some small businesses, but I don't accept the fundamental proposition that workers should have their take-home pay reduced as a solution to those problems," he said.

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