Most employers wary of new IR system, survey shows


Most employers wary of new IR system, survey shows

Only 3% of Australian employers plan to make immediate workplace changes under the new WorkChoices laws, according to a comprehensive survey.


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Only 3% of Australian employers plan to make immediate workplace changes under the new WorkChoices laws, according to a comprehensive survey.

The survey found that employers are concerned about their lack of understanding of the new workplace relations system and 73% are either going to make no changes at their workplace or are unsure whether they will.

It is also clear from the survey that the Federal Government’s $55m WorkChoices advertising blitz has not worked.

Acting Leader of the Opposition Jenny Macklin said this fact indicated the Howard Government has wasted taxpayers’ money on what was essentially Liberal Party political advertising.

Survey results

More than 1,500 employers throughout Australia, who employ a total of over 100,000 people, were interviewed for the Australian Business Limited (ABL) survey.

The survey found:

  • 21% of businesses felt they did not feel informed about the reforms, 63% felt they partially understood the changes and only 13% felt they thoroughly understood the changes.

  • 7% of businesses said the changes would have a major impact on their business, 28% some impact, 28% minor impact and 28% no impact and 8% did not know.

  • 50% of businesses said it would not change how they managed their employees, while only 3% of businesses said they intended to make immediate changes to their workplace, and 17% said they expected to make changes within a year. A further 23% were unsure if they would make any changes.

The employers said the major benefits of WorkChoices were:

  • the ability to tailor the arrangements to suit the workplace (62%);

  • more inclined to employ people because of changes to unfair dismissal laws (40%);

  • more flexible working arrangements (eg rostering) (31%).

The survey also found that employers intend to seek advice on WorkChoices from industry associations, solicitors and accountants.

Government need to explain WorkChoices

ABL CEO Mark Bethwaite said the challenge before the Government was to explain WorkChoices ‘in a practical way’.

‘What we see from these findings is that employers are not sure on how the new system will apply to their workplace and are making a clear decision to move cautiously,’ he said.

‘TV advertisements have not worked, what we need is practical, solution-focused materials which allow employers to apply WorkChoices to their workplace.

‘About 85% of employers are saying they do not know the details and the challenge before the Government is to develop the regulations in a way that makes it relatively simple for employers to implement.’

Bethwaite said that the fact that only 20% of businesses said they expected to make changes within the next year and the vast majority of businesses saying they will not make changes or unsure of any changes they will make ‘sends a very clear message to the Government’.

‘The implementation of WorkChoices is as important as its passage through the Parliament,’ Bethwaite said. ‘If the final regulations are seen as too complicated employers will not actively make changes.

‘If there is not a significant take-up of the changes then it would make a potential rollback of the reforms by a future Government easier.’

A spokesman for Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said the Government would host business seminars and distribute detailed packages on the new laws to employers early this year.

Details of the ABL survey

How informed do you feel about the proposed changes? Percentage
Thoroughly 13%
Partially 63%
Not at all 21%
Not relevant to my business 3%
What impact do you think the proposed changes will have on your business? Percentage
Major 7%
Some 28%
Minor 28%
No impact 28%
Don't know 8%
Do you intend to make changes to how you manage your employees in light of the proposed changes? Percentage
Yes, immediately 3%
Yes, within 12 months 17%
Yes, within 3 years 5%
No 49%
Unsure 24%
What do you see as the benefits to your business that the proposed changes will bring? Select as many as are relevant. Percentage
Ability to tailor arrangements to meet the needs of the workplace and workforce 62%
More inclined to employ because of changes to unfair dismissal laws 40%
More flexible working arrangements, eg rostering 30%
Easier agreement making 29%
Reduced unmeritorious dismissal claims 27%
Easier administration of employment arrangements 24%
Increased productivity through the removal of restrictive award obligations 18%
Better relationships between management and employees 18%
New dispute resolution options, i.e. mediation 16%
Employment of part-time apprentices and trainees 14%
Reduced industrial action 12%


Federal IR changes 2005   


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