Common-sense changes to industrial relations don’t go far enough for retail

The country’s largest and most diverse retail trade body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed concessions by the Albanese government in relation to the Secure Work Better Pay legislation but says that amendments proposed by the crossbench don’t go far enough to address significant business concerns.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said commitments to conduct a review of the award system, increase the definition of a small business from 15 to 20 employees, and provide safeguards for businesses of fewer than 50 employees, are all positive concessions but the sector remains concerned about the process and substance of the multi-employer bargaining provisions in the legislation.

“We welcome most of the common-sense amendments negotiated with the crossbench over the weekend but significant concerns and questions remain about how the legislation will affect business and if it will achieve the Government’s intended ambitions,” said Mr Zahra.

“The promise of a review of the award system and proposed concessions for small business are welcome but the proposed amendments to the Better-off Overall Test (BOOT) are problematic.

“While the Bill initially made some improvements to the BOOT, the amendments now agreed with the cross-bench potentially take us back a step and will fail to simplify enterprise bargaining, which is what our members are calling for. This is extremely disappointing.

“Business has spent years trying to reduce the complexity of workplace relations legislation for the benefit of employers, employees and government. We welcome the commitment to revisit awards, which has the potential to drive productivity for employers while providing employees with the flexibility they need to build a career in retail, whether that be through enabling split shifts, greater work-life balance or development opportunities.

“Multi-enterprise bargaining also remains a significant concern for many of our members. While we will continue to advocate for these provisions to be removed from this legislation, we are also seeking greater support for retailers in preparing for this and many of the changes in the Fair Work Act.

“It’s clear that the Government now has the support it needs to fast-track the passage of this legislation, despite inadequate time to consult with business. Let’s hope the government now gives business enough time and support to prepare for and implement these changes,” said Mr Zahra.

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