FIFTY-FIVE per cent of companies have reported an increase in record keeping since the introduction of WorkChoices, while a similar proportion reported an increased need to seek legal advice and 40 per cent said WorkChoices made employment arrangements more complex, according to a recent study.
However, notable areas of decreased business activity were union involvement in settling grievances (12 per cent decrease), union visits to worksites (12 per cent) and the number of industrial disputes (11 per cent). The biggest decrease was in the state of workforce morale, reported by 17 per cent of respondents.
The survey of more than 1,000 HR professionals and managers, which was carried out by Deakin University and commissioned by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) with research partner Blake Dawson Waldron, also found that 10 per cent of respondents said it was now easier to make jobs redundant.
By and large, Australian businesses have largely adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach on many issues that relate to WorkChoices and the way they treat their employees, the survey found.
There had been changes with regards to allowance of personal carer days (39 per cent), sick days (27 per cent), direct communication with employees (26 per cent) and negotiation on pay and conditions with individual employees (25 per cent).
Only 15 per cent reported increased negotiation on pay and conditions with groups of employees. Increased cashing out of annual leave was reported by 23 per cent of respondents, greater levels of financial flexibility by 22 per cent, improved workplace organisational flexibility by 21 per cent and increases in overall remuneration by 20 per cent of respondents.
On labour management indicators such as employee numbers, labour turnover, hours worked, overtime, absenteeism, industrial disputes, union visits, number of dismissals, penalty rates and productivity, approximately 80 per cent of respondents reported no change.
Many respondents approved of the benefits of direct negotiation with employees, the capacity to terminate a ‘bad’ employee without the threat of unfair dismissal claims and the capacity to manage without union pressure.
“In WorkChoices there are both compliance provisions and provisions of which organisations are at liberty to avail themselves for the benefit of their business,” said Blake Dawson Waldron employment practice leader, Helen McKenzie, noting an increasing reliance on legal advice due to the complexities relating to compliance issues in particular.
“At this stage, many organisations are taking steps to protect themselves from the cost of getting compliance matters wrong, but appear to be erring on the side of caution when it comes to using the laws creatively. More certainty may follow shortly and we might then see a change of approach.”