Workplace relations Bill creates more problems than solutions

Australia’s peak retail body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), has warned the Federal Government’s Closing the Loopholes Bill will increase complexity for employers without any upside in terms of productivity, job creation or workforce participation.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the proposed changes will move workplace relations reform in the wrong direction.

“We support an equitable and balanced workplace relations system, but this Bill seeks to implement complex regulations without any real productivity benefit, which is amongst the top priorities for businesses,” Mr Zahra said.

“The Government should be simplifying the workplace relations system, not complicating it further. The Bill fails to meet that test, and our key concerns relate to the changes for casual workers and underpayment of wages.

“We see the benefits of a more permanent retail workforce, but our members say there are currently very low levels of casual conversion. This Bill means there is going to be a lot more administrative work for employers without any material change in casual conversion rates.

“While we support the Government’s decision to limit the wage theft laws to deliberate and intentional conduct, the Government needs to reduce complexity in our workplace relations system to minimise unintentional mistakes.

In announcing the changes last week, the Government conceded that the new rules could push up prices for consumers.

“We need to be extremely careful with any policy changes that drive price increases, considering the cost-of-living pain already being felt by Australians,” Mr Zahra added.

The Closing the Loopholes Bill marks the third round of reforms in less than 12 months – part of the most intense rollout of workplace relations reforms in decades.

“The pace and intensity of industrial relations change is a real concern for business, particularly in a uniquely challenging economic landscape.

“The Government’s decision to carve out small businesses with an exemption on part of the Bill is understandable given the complexity, but also serves as an admission that these reforms are overly complex and challenging to implement.”

Mr Zahra acknowledged the Federal Government’s modest concessions that have been made in conversations with employer groups, however, he said they are by no means sufficient.

“We look forward to working with the Senate Crossbench to advocate for a version of this Bill that drives productivity, create jobs and increase workforce participation because we cannot support the Bill in its current form,” said Mr Zahra.

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