WorkChoices has complicated employment, say HR professionals

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WorkChoices has complicated employment, say HR professionals

WorkChoices has made employment arrangements more complex and increased the need to seek legal advice and the Fairness Test has only added to the problem, a survey of HR professionals released today reveals.

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WorkChoices has made employment arrangements more complex and increased the need to seek legal advice and the Fairness Test has only added to the problem, a survey of HR professionals released today reveals.

The Australian Human Resources Institute commissioned study analysed responses from just over 1,000 Institute members during June and July.

The research found the most significant increase in business activity was the level of record keeping, reported by 54.5% of respondents. A sizeable 55.5% also reported an increased need to seek legal advice, with 40.2% saying WorkChoices made employment arrangements more complex.

Many HR professionals who had approved of WorkChoices prior to the Fairness Test, express 'regret' at its introduction, saying it would add another level of complexity and was a 'backward step'.

Wait and see approach

Overall, the survey says that business is adopting a 'wait and see' approach on many issues that relate to the way Australian organisations are treating their employees since WorkChoices was introduced in March 2006.

A number of responses indicated activity in many of the areas in which the Government encouraged take-up when the legislation was circulated. Notably, areas of increased activity since WorkChoices was introduced were personal carer days allowed (reported by 38.7% of respondents), sick days allowed (26.7%), direct communication with employees (26.3%) and negotiation on pay and conditions with individual employees (25.3%).

Only 15% reported increased negotiation on pay and conditions with groups of employees. Increased cashing out of annual leave was reported by 22.9% of respondents, greater levels of financial flexibility by 22%, improved workplace organisational flexibility by 21.2% and increases in overall remuneration by 20.2%.

On labour management indicators such as employee numbers, labour turnover, hours worked, overtime, absenteeism, industrial disputes, union visits, number of dismissals, penalty rates and productivity, approximately four out of five respondents to the survey reported 'no change'.

Lower workplace morale

Notable areas of decreased business activity were union involvement in settling grievances (reported by 12% of respondents), union visits to work sites (by 11.8%) and number of industrial disputes (by 11.4%).

The biggest report of a decrease was reported by 17.2% of respondents, and was on the state of workforce morale.

On the impact of the new unfair dismissal threshold, HR professionals reported little activity in either dismissal claims or provision of jobs, though 10.5% said it was now easier to make jobs redundant.

A total of 20.7% of respondents involved in negotiating and settling employment contracts reported an increase of non-union collective agreements after WorkChoices, compared with 6.8% at the time it became law.

Many respondents expressed approval of the benefits of direct negotiation with employees, the capacity to terminate a 'bad' employee without the threat of unfair dismissal claims, and the capacity to manage without union pressure.

Work/life balance not improved

Asked to comment of the likelihood of WorkChoices providing improvements over the next three years in work-life balance, productivity and willingness to hire employees, nearly half the respondents were neutral.

However, one in three disagreed with the proposition that WorkChoices would make improvements in these areas.

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