Employers should prepare for upcoming changes in workplace relations

As the Jobs and Skills summit ushers in new rules, learn how your business can adapt

Employers should prepare for upcoming changes in workplace relations

Businesses should now “take proactive actions” following the highly anticipated workplace relation changes agreed upon during the Jobs and Skills Summit, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) said in a media release.

Recently, the federal government released its Jobs and Skills Summit outcome paper highlighting the government’s economic agenda of increasing productivity for the benefit of Australians.

“As a result of the consensus reached at the Summit, immediate actions will be taken to build a bigger, better trained, and more productive workforce – to help deliver secure jobs with growing wages, boost incomes and living standards and create more opportunities for more Australians,” the government said.

Thus, the VCCI identified vital steps businesses should now take in the changing workplace relations landscape.

Assess pay and conditions

Promoting gender pay equity and mitigating wage theft should be a fundamental step for Australian businesses toward ensuring a healthy workplace.

“These all start with compliance: ensure staff position descriptions reflect the role; classify the position in line with an applicable award or enterprise agreement; align the same or similar roles to ensure consistency and pay equity; audit wage information; and develop frameworks to address problem areas and/or safeguard future compliance,” VCCI said.

Wage theft criminalisation is common among several businesses, and while compliance can be challenging, the Chamber said that if handled appropriately and practically, it can be successfully achieved.

Improve employment access and job security

Secondly, among the outcomes highlighted in the paper is the proposal to amend the Fair Work Act to improve access to flexibility, and unpaid parental leave, along with developing a more care-friendly workplace framework.

In line with this, the Chamber recommended businesses take proactive steps by reviewing their internal policies, especially rules that oversee flexible working arrangements and parental leave.

Moreover, the paper laid out the issue of capping fixed-term contracts and creating a new objective test to assess who is a “casual” worker.

Considering the issue and the current workforce shortage, businesses should assess the future of the workforce and understand existing skills and capabilities as well as gaps.

“This will help finesse recruitment strategies and cement learning and development plans,” VCCI said. “It can also help understand the make-up of the workforce, including how many casual employees are on the books, how many times have fixed-term contracts rolled over, and what procedures are in place to review ongoing casual and fixed-term arrangements.”

Combat sexual harassment and empower staff

The federal government also heed the recommendations of [email protected]  during the Summit to take preemptive measures even before sexual harassment occurs in the workplace.

“This means if a business isn’t taking steps to proactively manage risks, they could be investigated and even prosecuted,” VCCI said. “Businesses can and should act now to assess, review, control and mitigate sexual harassment risks in the workplace.”

Be prepared for bargaining

During the Summit, the government also committed to consulting with businesses and employee groups to know how the system can be reformed to allow smaller businesses access.

“Enterprise bargaining has been a hot topic of discussion,” the Chamber noted. “Taking time to understand industry trends and devise a strategy is a vital first step as is building a team to drive the negotiation.”

Ensure a healthy working environment

Lastly, but most importantly, businesses should become more concerned about their legal responsibility to protect workers, physically and mentally.

“To support staff who are working remotely, in an office or on a hybrid model, businesses must proactively manage the mental health of staff and leaders,” VCCI noted. “Businesses need to manage mental health risks in the same way they manage physical risks.”

Moreover, avoiding mental health risks begins with an audit and entails various steps, such as ongoing monitoring, according to the Chamber.

It also said that businesses needing assistance could consult with the Victorian Chamber as it has an experienced team of workplace relations and health, safety, and wellbeing advisors and consultants.

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