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The Advertiser
April 08, 2009 12:00am

A third of SMEs don’t understand IR laws
48pc concerned about changes

MORE than a third of small business owners have no understanding of new industrial relations laws being phased in on July 1, according to a survey.

The Telstra Business Industrial Relations survey of 282 Australian business owners found three-quarters were aware the system was changing, but 37 per cent had poor or no understanding of their obligations.

Just over half of respondents feel they are “partly prepared” for the changes and close to a third feel they are not prepared.

Harmers Workplace Lawyers partner Shana Schreier-Joffe said business owners needed to familiarise themselves with the laws before they came into effect. Some changes will become law on July 1, while new Modern Awards that cover a large proportion of the Australian workforce will begin on January 1, 2010.

“Employers are very much in the dark over award modernisation, especially sectors that have traditionally not been subject to award coverage, which will now be covered by modern awards,” Ms Schreier-Joffe said.

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The Australian, 13 Mar 2009 Employers needing to adapt to changes include those with staff working after-hours and on weekends. Ms Schreier-Joffe said sectors that traditionally used above-award contractual arrangements might no longer be able to do so and would face increased labour costs as a result.

“Modern Awards may also result in an increase in costs for employers, particularly in industries that employ a large number of casuals, such as retail and hospitality,” she said.

“For instance, many modern awards will provide for loadings for part-time employees, and the casual loading for a number of industries will be increased to 25 per cent.”

The Telstra survey found 48 per cent of company owners were concerned the changes would increase their business expenses.

Ms Schreier-Joffe said employers worried about rising wage costs should consider mechanisms to protect themselves from modern awards, such as a collective agreement.

“The traditional use of common law contracts which provide for above-award payments may no longer insulate employers from award obligations to pay penalty, overtime and loadings,” she said.

Increased union power was a concern for 42 per cent of business owners and 38 per cent were worried about changes to the unfair dismissal laws.

http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,23636,25307308-5017672,00.html?from=public_rss

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