Not all employers ready for new IR laws

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Not all employers ready for new IR laws

A survey has shown almost 20% of employers have little understanding of the new Fair Work IR laws that came into operation today.

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A survey has shown almost 20% of employers have little understanding of the new Fair Work IR laws that came into operation today.
 
It also shows not many employers have a full understanding of the new legislation.
 
The survey, done by law firm DLA Phillips Fox, ascertained how well companies were prepared for the introduction of the new general protections for employees, as well as the requirement for good faith bargaining.
 
The survey, titled 'Fair Work Act — Are You Ready?' was sent to human resources and employee relations professionals, in-house legal counsel and senior management figures across a broad cross section of industries including financial services, construction and manufacturing to name a few.
 
Sensitive information not protected
 
162 respondents completed the survey and key findings were:
  • Almost one in five respondents said their understanding and readiness for good faith bargaining was below average or poor.
  • Less than one in five respondents said their company had taken steps to protect sensitive information that can be requested during good faith bargaining.
  • There are high levels of concern around responding to union requests for information.
  • While most respondents said their organisation was well prepared for the new legislation, there were gaps in their awareness when it came to some of the key changes.
 
First few months ‘challenging’
 
Partner at law firm DLA Phillips Fox, Allan Drake-Brockman said the results showed that employers were concerned or uncertain about some aspects of the new legislation:
 
'The first few months of life under the new Act will be challenging for employers,’ he said.
 
‘For many they will be learning as they go. The survey results suggest that the level of preparedness of some employers places them at risk of running foul of the new laws.'
 
'The next few months will be an education for all and for some that education might be uncomfortable.’
 
Retail sector ‘not ready’
 
The lack of preparedness by employers found in the survey was mirrored in the retail sector.
 
The Australian Retailers Association was concerned about higher wage and compliance costs under the new system and had urged up to 5000 members to strike five-year, non-union deals with their employees before today.
 
However, ARA spokesman Phil Barresi said most of the association's members were either not aware of or did not understand the changes associated with the Fair Work Act.
 
‘We really wanted them to focus in on what the impact of the bill would be on the small retail sector,’ he said.
 
‘There is going to be an increased presence by the union movement. There is going to be collective bargaining that is going to be forced upon businesses.'
 
‘Never met a union official’
 
‘We are worried that the Fair Work Act will have ramifications for retailers who have probably never ever met a union official in the past and, all of a sudden, they can be confronted with a negotiating environment which is totally foreign to them.’
 
Barresi said the uptake of non-union agreements had been ‘very, very low’.
 
‘I think part of the reason is just simply that retailers have really failed to understand the complexity of the legislation, and the changes that were going to take place,’ he said.
 
‘A bit late now’
 
‘Retailers have been so focused on making the dollars, that issues such as industrial relations and the changes to the bill have been a secondary issue.'
 
‘In the last couple of weeks, there has been a greater level of interest but ... it's all a bit late now.’
 
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