Extending Industrial Relations Flexibility Post-Pandemic Is ‘Common Sense’ Support for Small Businesses

Published July 17, 2020 -
small business owner working with flexible industrial relations legislation

The Prime Minister’s comments on extending industrial relations exemptions past the JobKeeper end date is an important recognition that workplace relations flexibility is needed when supporting businesses and workers, according to Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace relations advisor.

Scott Morrison has hinted that the JobKeeper Enabling Directions introduced to the Fair Work Act during the first wave of COVID-19, will still be needed long into the recovery period to help businesses rebuild and keep more people in a job.

“The changes we’ve seen in the industrial relations sector over the past few months have given small business owners the flexibility they need to continue to operate in this challenging time,” said Employsure Managing Director Ed Mallett.

“We’re supportive of anything that makes life easier for employers and their staff, and legislation such as a ‘JobKeeper-enabling Stand Down’ has been a life raft during the pandemic.

“The flexibility we’ve seen in the IR sector in responding to COVID-19 is a sign of how complicated and impractical the system was pre-pandemic, and now we have a chance for long lasting reform that will benefit both business owners and their employees.

“It has taken a crisis like this to highlight just how inflexible and complicated Australia’s workplace relations system has become. The JobKeeper changes have benefitted employers and workers across the country by both saving and creating jobs.”

Mr Morrison’s push for IR flexibility comes after the Federal Government revealed yesterday that the national rate of unemployment had risen to a 22-year-high of 7.4 per cent. The Treasurer has previously hinted the real figure, which includes those who have lost their jobs and stopped looking for a new one, is closer to 13.3%. An announcement on what will replace the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme when it ends, is expected to be made next week.

“We’ve been telling business owners for months now not to bury their heads in the JobKeeper sand, and start to look at ways to preserve their cash flow in the lead up to the cut-off date at the end of September,” continued Mr Mallett.

“We are supportive of any change that will help employers vary the way they operate now and into the future, and this pending announcement of how they will be able to do that past September will help provide more clarity.

“If the changes made to the Fair Work Act were to revert back to the way they were at the start of the year, employers will not have the flexibility to operate in a way that will ensure the viability of roles in their business.

“The initiatives the Government have introduced since April, including the recently announced JobMaker reform process, could be the ‘reset’ button Australia’s industrial relations system needs.”

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