PIAA: FWC a danger zone

The PIAA claims businesses regard the workplace relations system and the Fair Work Commission (FWC) as a danger zone.

Mary-Jo Fisher, director of government relations, PIAA says, “The ‘danger zone’ tempts small business to make decisions based on workplace laws, divorced from operational needs.  A business doing this long term risks its future.”

Fisher says businesses must feel free to make decisions based on operational needs with an eye to workplace laws, rather than allowing the latter to dictate.

“Employees rely on a culture of rack off money as motivation to lodge a claim with the FWC, safe in the knowledge that they will likely be paid out to disappear rather than business fighting for the merits of the claim.

“For small print businesses who try to do the right thing, these claims have a high cost financially and in reputation, and there is little benefit in pursuing them.

“To start with, the FWC needs to show what is, and what is not, a fair dismissal. When is fighting at work a valid reason to dismiss an employee, and what is a fair process to deal with it?  The same goes for drugs and alcohol. Current evidence shows that FWC decisions are not consistent in their ruling,” she says.

[Related: PIAA backs Morrison budget]

Fisher says that complying with the Small Business Unfair Dismissal Code gives small business little reprieve. Not complying with the code is viewed as negative by the FWC, but complying with the code does not offer the complete defence that it should.

“Furthermore, small businesses should be exempt from requirements to consult with workers before making redundancies.

“In small business, it’s ordinarily one or two of the team who have to be let go.  There’s no alternative job for anyone.  Consulting won’t change the outcome, it will just add stress to the redundant and prolong co-workers feeling awkward and stressed about their own jobs”, Fisher says.

Fisher says for business to see the workplace relations system as anything other than a danger zone, the government needs to amend unbalanced and complex laws, “Making FWC processes less alienating for small print businesses is a solid start.”

The hon Bruce Billson asked the PIAA to make a submission to his review of FWC processes with the aim of reducing the burden on small businesses appearing before the FWC. Iain Ross, president, FWC tasked Billson to complete the review.

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