Workplace reform needed for secure future: ACCI


Workplace reform needed for secure future: ACCI

Small businesses should be exempt from unfair dismissal laws and workplace bullying should be regulated through the WHS legislative framework, according to the ACCI submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry.


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Small businesses should be exempt from unfair dismissal laws and workplace bullying should be regulated through the WHS legislative framework, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry Into Workplace Relations.

The needs of the unemployed and underemployed should be considered along with those in employment in our workplace relations framework, ACCI says. It has made 14 recommendations to the inquiry in a 171 page report, including ensuring the national minimum wage and compulsory industry rates of pay should be “appropriately balanced”.

The employer group considers there should be a simple safety net comprising minimum conditions of employment, a national minimum wage, and industry rates of pay retained from awards. Other award conditions would have to be agreed between employers and their employees.

Proposed legislated minimum conditions of employment would include: 
  • maximum weekly hours
  • requests for flexible working arrangements
  • parental leave
  • annual leave
  • personal carer’s leave and compassionate leave
  • community service leave
  • long service leave
  • public holidays
  • notice of termination and redundancy pay
  • rest breaks
  • minimum wages (including casual loading and piece rates).


ACCI wants a return to a “full suite” of agreements, including individual agreements. However, it says the terms of agreements should be assessed against the legislated minimum standards and award-derived industry pay rates, or the national minimum wage, if applicable.

It also wants a simplified bargaining framework, focusing on “productive negotiations”, “sensible limits” to strikes and a more streamlined process for approving agreements. The Fair Work Act requires more measures to prevent pattern bargaining than it currently contains.

It wants workers banned from  taking industrial action over a list of matters including: independent contractors; work health and safety; right of entry; industrial action and “extra claims”; and dispute resolution (beyond the model clause).

Penalty rates

Penalty rates should be reformed to reflect changing community norms in relation to how people spend their time on weekends and workers’ different priorities at different stages of their lives.

ACCI says in its submission the long-term objective should be for a workplace relations system that sets wages and conditions through workplace bargaining. It sees penalty rates as remaining a feature of sectors with high union representation such as nursing, teaching and emergency services.

Further recommendations

A further list of ACCI’s recommendations includes:
  • exempt businesses with less than 20 employees from the unfair dismissal laws
  • regulate workplace bullying within the WHS framework
  • restore the longstanding ‘Freedom of Association’ protections and unlawful termination protections
  • restore the Office of the Australian Building & Construction Commissioner (ABCC) with its full suite of powers
  • balanced right of entry laws
  • restore balance to transfer of business rules.
  • recognise the right to engage in contracting and labour hire arrangements.”
The full ACCI submission can be downloaded from its website.
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