The ARA and the NRA make submissions to the Productivity Commission

The Australian Retailers Association and the National Retail Association have made submissions to the Productivity Commission’s review of the Australian workplace relations system, calling for small businesses to be subject to a Small Business Schedule and to be exempt from unfair dismissal laws.

As part of the Productivity’s Commissions review of the workplace relations framework, the National Retail Association (NRA) has made submissions proposing 10 recommendations “which would give the service sector the flexibility, modernity and structures needed.”

Amongst the proposals the NRA seeks to be implemented is the introduction of a Small Business Schedule to modern awards. This would apply to businesses with 50 or fewer employees and would “operate to exclude small business from the application of many of the award terms such as hours of work, rostering, minimum shift provisions and… provide for a more flexible remuneration structure” and the exclusion of penalties, allowances and overtime. The NRA argues that it is difficult for small to medium sized businesses to navigate the Australian workplace relations system and the Small Business Schedule would mean fewer inadvertent breaches of legislation by small businesses.

The NRA has also proposed that small businesses should be exempt from the unfair dismissal jurisdiction as “defending such claims can be crippling for small business, both in possible representation costs and valuable time spent out of the business.”

Other proposals put forward by the NRA include:

  1. Limiting the scope of stop bullying orders;
  2. Mandatorily screening general protections applications to ensure the Applicant has established a prima facie case prior to the application proceeding;
  3. Amending the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to provide for the option of non-union employer greenfield agreements;
  4. Limiting the role of bargaining representatives who have had no involvement in the negotiation of an enterprise agreement;
  5. Amending the Modern Awards Objective to give more weight to promoting flexible work practices;
  6. Excluding small businesses from consultation provisions in the event of redundancy;

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) also made submissions to the Productivity Commission calling for an “appropriate regulatory body” to consider penalty rates and “give precedence to economic considerations such as employment levels in the industry, productivity and the viability of business operations.”

Similar to the NRA, the ARA also seeks to amend the unfair dismissal jurisdiction to require the FWC to establish whether an unfair dismissal claim is made within its jurisdiction, and if it is not, the FWC should dismiss the claim. Both the NRA and ARA call for employees who make vexatious unfair dismissal claims against their former employer to be ordered to pay the employer’s costs of responding to the claim.

The Productivity Commission is currently considering submissions and is due to release a draft report in July 2015 and make final findings in November 2015.