COSBOA: Get advice before hiring/firing

The Council of Small Business of Australia has issued a warning to small businesses to act with extreme caution when making any changes to their existing staffing arrangements, including hiring, firing, changing staff hours or rates of pay, after next Wednesday, July 1.

Jaye Radisich.

"In just two business days' time the Fair Work Act will come into place, which sees the most broad-sweeping workplace relations changes in years," Council of Small Business CEO Jaye Radisich said.


"Unfortunately, most small businesses are not aware of the significant impact that this legislation will have on staffing matters.

"A report released by Telstra in April indicated that most small businesses didn't know about the new workplace relations changes or were not ready for them. Anecdotal evidence collected by the Council of Small Business of Australia indicates that situation has not changed, due to a lack of information available about the new laws."

Ms Radisich urged small businesses that fall under the federal workplace relations system not to take any action with regard to staffing decisions until they contact the Workplace Authority.

"Although Fair Work Australia is the new body that will help people navigate the Fair Work Act, no website or phone line is available yet so small business owners, managers and their staff should call the Workplace Authority on 1300 363 264 about their rights and responsibilities under the new arrangements," Ms Radisich said.

"Unlike large businesses, small firms do not have in-house lawyers or human resources departments to help them navigate major workplace relations changes. Nor can they often afford to hire expensive consultants to prepare their internal business systems for the changes," Ms Radisich said.

"The new laws are designed to enhance the protections afforded to employees. It is disappointing that small business employers have not been afforded the benefit of early notice of their compliance obligations under the new scheme.

"Ironically, both employees and small business employers could be in a more vulnerable position from Wednesday, due to the lack of awareness and understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities.

"Although the Fair Work Act passed through Parliament in March 2009, it was only last week that two further key bills passed the Parliament. The transitional legislation repeals the current Workplace Relations Act 1996 and sets out transitional provisions for the movement of employers and employees into the new system."

The second bill deals with consequential amendments to other Commonwealth legislation resulting from the Fair Work Act. This bill also deals with additional amendments consequential to any state referrals of workplace relations powers.

The National Employment Standards and Modern Awards will come into operation from  January 1, 2010.


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