Productivity Commission Draft Report: Workplace Relations Framework

It is important for HR Practitioners to be aware of the inquiry into Australian Workplace Relations as changes put forward by the Productivity Commission could lead to changes in the Independent Contractors Act 2006 and Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA).

Federal Treasurer, The Hon Joe Hockey MP, requested the Productivity Commission undertake an inquiry into the workplace relations framework.

As a result a draft report has been released which can be downloaded from the Productivity Commission website.

 

‘The review will make recommendations about how the laws can be improved to maximise outcomes for Australian employers, employees and the economy, bearing in mind the need to ensure workers are protected, the need for business to be able to grow, prosper and employ, and the need to reduce unnecessary and excessive regulation’.

The invitation has been extended for comment to be made on this draft report, with written submissions accepted up to 18 September 2015. A final report should be submitted to the Australian Government in November 2015.

Relevance to HR Practitioners

Of relevance to HR Practitioners, the review will assess the impact of the workplace relations framework on matters including:

  • unfair dismissal;
  • unemployment, underemployment and job creation;
  • fair and equitable pay and conditions for employees, including the maintenance of a relevant safety net;
  • patterns of engagement in the labour market;
  • the ability for employers to flexibly manage and engage with their employees;
  • barriers to bargaining;
  • red tape and the compliance burden for employers;
  • industrial conflict and days lost due to industrial action; and
  • appropriate scope for independent contracting.

In relation to the FWA and unfair dismissal, the Commission’s current finding is for there to be no fundamental changes to the relevant sections of the Act. Therefore it is highly unlikely there will be the removal of statutory unfair dismissal laws. However, the draft report notes the need to make some incremental changes to these laws to:

  • prevent spurious cases from resulting in financial settlement, by introducing more effective upfront filters that focus on the merits of claims;
  • not favour form over substance, by changing the penalty regime to ensure that procedural errors alone are not sufficient to award compensation or restore employment in what would otherwise be regarded as a fair dismissal; and
  • reform the governance of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) and some aspects of its conciliation and arbitration processes.

These current recommendations bode well for employers.

Workplace Conflict Resolution will keep you updated with relevant outcomes put forward in the final report.

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