Less than half of Australia’s small businesses are prepared to deal with the latest family friendly workplace laws under the Fair Work Act, expected to take effect from next month, a new survey shows.
The CompliSpace survey of 352 small and medium businesses found that fewer than half of the businesses surveyed know of, understand or are prepared for the industrial relations changes. Further to that, more than half of the companies surveyed were considered at an extreme or high risk of falling foul of the laws, given their lack of preparation.
Three in five managers admitted that they did not have a good level of understanding of the ‘unfair dismissal’ remedy and the potential impacts to their business, while over 50 percent surveyed admitted that they did not understand ‘modern awards’.
The new laws include a ‘modern awards’ system and 10 new national employment standards replacing the Howard Government’s WorkChoices legislation.
One of the report’s authors David Griffiths, of the consultancy CompliSpace, said that the results prove that many employers may be in for shock when the new workplace laws are introduced and should be preparing themselves for the changes.
“What is clear from this study is that a great number of companies remain unaware and unprepared for the substantial changes,” the report says. ”Employers who ignore ‘modern awards’ may be in for a rude shock given that the flexibility clause contained in each award could mean their current common-law agreements no longer insulate them from obligations to pay overtime, penalty rates and leave loadings.”
The survey also found that, although respondents reported low levels of awareness and preparedness for the commencement of the Fair Work Act, the vast majority are committed to the development of an internal human resources program.
Among the new national employment standards are:
- The extension from 12 to 24 months of unpaid parental leave that employees can request;
- The introduction of an entitlement to redundancy pay for all workers, not just those covered by awards;
- Entitlement for carers of preschool children and children under the age of 18 with a disability to request flexible working arrangements.
Other changes include the extension of the definition of de facto partners to include same-sex couples and the removal of the restriction allowing an employee to take a maximum of 10 days carer’s leave in any 12-month period.