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Push to simplify ‘confusing’ workplace rules for SMEs

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
27 April 2018 1 minute readShare
Red tape

The creation of a dedicated small business Enterprise Bargaining Agreement and a pay calculation tool are among the measures being pushed for to reduce the red-tape burden on SMEs.

Two heavyweights in the business world have united to push for a simplification of the complexities of creating more jobs.

Kate Carnell, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), released a whitepaper identifying some of the major constraints to SME growth and ways in which they could be reformed to reduce the red tape burden on smaller employers.

“We have had significant consultations with small businesses over the last two years and the overwhelming view is the legislation is far too complicated for the majority of Australian businesses with less than 20 employees and no expert HR or legal departments,” said Ms Carnell.

“Some of these achievable recommendations can be accomplished without legislation, and others can be realised with very minor legislative changes.”

Among the recommendations, the ASBFEO is pushing for an online decision-making and pay calculation tool on the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) website; a substantiation of unfair dismissal claims before they are elevated to a formal hearing; publishing Fair Work Commission verdicts in plain English so employers can better understand judgements and their application; and expanding the FWO’s employer support line to operate outside of standard business hours.

Other reforms include increased transparency around the awards system and employee pay rates, and removing overlaps between awards and national employment standards; the creation of a small business Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) to streamline requirements; and reducing the maximum compensation levels SMEs are required to pay to employees in findings against the business to recognise the financial resources available to the business.

“If these 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,” Ms Carnell said.

James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the report and its recommendations, saying that any reduction in the confusion and complexity of taking on employees and operating a business is a welcome move.

“It is nonsense that small businesspeople are required to navigate awards that can span over a hundred pages and wade through laws as thick as a phone book to understand what they should be doing,” said Mr Pearson.

“The margin for error is high and even lawyers and industrial experts with decades of experience can get it wrong. It’s even harder for small businesses that don’t have in house lawyers or human resources departments to focus on the detail and get it right.”

Push to simplify ‘confusing’ workplace rules for SMEs
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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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