Fair Work Act changes could hit brokers

Changes to the Fair Work Act are likely to have a heavy impact on small-time employers



A top broker has said changes to the Fair Work Act could be troublesome for brokers, and aren't tailored to the needs of small business owners.

Minister for employment and workplace relations, Bill Shorten, has confirmed the government’s next set of changes to the Act, saying it will largely focus on ‘flexibility for modern families’.

“Helping families with work and family balance, changes to parental leave to provide more flexibility to new parents and a requirement for employers to consider the impact of major change on employees’ family and care responsibilities – these are the signature changes we will soon bring before the Parliament.”

However, Acuity Funding managing director, Ranjit Thambyrajah, told Australian Broker that while, for the most part, he’s happy with the ideologies behind the new regulations, he’s concerned they may not be realistic for brokers and other small business-owners.

#pb# The specific measures in the second tranche of changes include, among other things:

  • providing a worker who has suffered bullying at work a right of recourse through the Fair Work Commission;
  • improving entitlements for workers who are pregnant, including changes to special maternity leave and the right to transfer to a safe job,
  • provide flexibility to parents taking unpaid parental leave, including extending the time that parents can take unpaid parental leave together from 3 weeks to 8 weeks and allowing them to choose when they want to take that leave; and
  • an express right to request a return to work on a part time basis after taking unpaid parental leave.

Thambyrajah stresses that no employee should be exposed to bullying in the work place. However, he’s worried that the amendments leaves it ‘very open’ as to what qualifies as bullying.

“Most broking houses are small and are not equipped to mount a ready defence to any frivolous claim of bullying. Any such initiative needs to be well defined so as not to lead to frivolous claims.”

#pb# Similarly, he says the extension of unpaid parental leave ‘sounds very good’ - so long as the government takes into account the size of the employer and the number of employees an organisation might have.

“In our industry, the number staff per organisation may not allow for permitting this level of flexibility while ensuring proper service being delivered to the end client.”

Furthermore, Thambyrajah says he dislikes the term ‘right to…’

“It is very finite and leaves the employer very exposed to having to comply with uneconomical outcomes. It is my personal experience that in a good workplace there is sufficient opportunities for employers and employees to work together to deliver a good working environment, whereby the employees needs are well considered and where possible accommodated.”

He says it’s in every good business person’s best interest to ensure that their staff are well catered for.

“Time lost through staff changes and recruitments have a great impact on the productivity of the business and it is in the business’ interest to ensure that they minimise staff turnover. At Acuity, all our staff have been with us for many years - including both mothers and single dads. At no time have we had to say ‘no’ to their preferred working hours or their request for parental leave. Having said this, I’m blessed with staff that take their responsibilities seriously and have not exploited the freedom we offer them.”

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