Revealed in the 2020–21 federal budget, the funding allocation to the FWC will be made available over two financial years to help resolve workplace disputes during the COVID-19 pandemic at a more efficient rate.
But according to Employsure managing director Ed Mallett, the money could be better spent in other ways to help small businesses avoid ending up at the tribunal in the first place.
“Rather than throw money at the problem and hope it will simply help clear a backlog of businesses already before the FWC, we need a proper simplification of the awards system and greater protection for SMEs,” Mr Mallett said.
“The money would be better spent in simplifying modern awards, as well as educating and supporting small-businesses owners, rather than spending it at the end of the line to deal with disputes.”
Mr Mallett also said there needs to be more support around general disputes in the workplace.
“One way to approach this is to focus on encouraging employees to work with their employer in resolving any issues they have before heading to a commission,” he said.
Further, Mr Mallett has called for the creation of a small business award so that SMEs who employ 15 or fewer full-time equivalent employees have a simple set of rules to follow.
He said that small businesses currently can end up with multiple awards and pay rates, which leads to the core confusion behind problems such as underpayment.
“From committees the government has created to talk about IR reform, I’m not aware of a single person who has reached out to small businesses themselves,” Mr Mallett said.
“Instead, what they’ve done is employed people to these committees who have very little in common with those small businesses, to then go and represent the views of those employers.
“Businesses who are trying to restructure their operations to survive the COVID-19 crisis are also vulnerable to frustrating unfair dismissal claims. Small businesses need greater protection from the risks of these claims in a time when they may be trying to restructure to save their businesses.”