Media release

Small businesses struggle with industrial relations identity

1 September 2009

A recent survey by the SBDC shows many small business operators have limited knowledge of their industrial relations obligations.

According to the Small Business Development Corporation’s (SBDC) latest survey, many small business operators are unsure whether their business is governed by State or Federal industrial relations (IR) laws.

The SBDC regularly polls its Ready Response Network as a litmus test of the small business sector in Western Australia. In this survey, participants were asked about their industrial relations knowledge and for feedback on the small business exemptions from Federal unfair dismissal laws. The survey coincided with the introduction of the new Federal industrial relations system, which came into force in July 2009.

SBDC Managing Director, Stephen Moir says there appears to be a lack of awareness by many small business operators of their industrial relations responsibilities.

The majority of respondents to the survey employed between one and ten employees with 39 per cent identifying as falling within the State IR system, 26 per cent within the Federal system and 36 per cent unsure of which system applied to their business.

“It is of concern to us that more than a third of respondents who employ staff are unaware of which IR system applies to their business and that they may not know of the employment standards that apply to their staff,” Mr Moir said.

“It was also significant that of those under the Federal IR system, 44 per cent were unaware of the recent changes, including changes to the unfair dismissal provisions for small business operators and as a consequence, the vast majority have made no changes to their business operations.”

Mr Moir says business operators wanting to know how the new laws will impact on their businesses, and what changes if any, should be made to their operations should contact the SBDC.

“We have a team of experienced business advisers who can help small business operators get on top of their industrial relations requirements as well as a dedicated IR specialist from the Department of Commerce Labour Relations Division to provide advice,” Mr Moir said.

“It may be as simple as establishing whether your business is governed by State or Federal IR laws, updating procedure manuals and making sure supervisors are aware of the changes.”

“We can also advise businesses on where to go for free confidential mediation services in the event of workplace disputes,” Mr Moir said.

Media contact: Di Graham (08) 9220 0218 or 0409 089 159.

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