THE complexity of the Australian workplace relations systems is stifling confidence, a position paper from Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell found.
Small businesses contribute $380 billion to the Australian economy and employ more than 5.5 million people.
But consultation over the last two years has highlighted the need to reduce the complexity of the system.
The Workplace Relations – simplification for small business paper found tiny operators often handled all “operational and legislative requirements”, including lengthy administration obligations.
“They are not HR or legal experts and do not have HR departments, legal departments or finance departments,” Ms Carnell said.
“Put simply, the workplace relations system is too complex and time consuming for Australian businesses.”
Renata Taylor had previously worked at a 5-star hotel backed by a well-resourced HR department.
The Little Stove owner said it was a “shock” when she made the switch to running her own business in Bicton 10 years ago.
“The amount of paper work and time it took to set up payroll correctly (and) the time it takes to update when there is a change to the award or to work place rights is considerable,” she said.
“I imagine lots of small business owners would at times feel the pressure of getting it right.”
Ms Carnell’s paper included a host of “achievable recommendations”, including improving online tools, changes to dismissal claims and allowing for a “dignified end to employment when an employee is no longer a good fit for the business”.“This is by no means our final word on the workplace relations system,” Ms Carnell said.
“It is simply some small but doable steps that will make a real difference to small businesses now, giving them the confidence to employ more staff.”
Ms Taylor said there needed to be a focus on “education and transparency”.
“Running a small business can be hard work so any help the government can give will always be appreciated,” she said.
“Reducing the paperwork is definitely a start.
“I do believe the changes will hopefully promote more employers to consider full time and part time employees over casual.”
Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive Juliana Payne said an easy to comprehend workplace relations system for small businesses was needed.
“The time pressures facing small businesses in the caf, restaurant and catering sector are enormous and the overly complicated workplace relations system is burdensome for these business-owners to try and navigate,” she said.
“Over 92.1 per cent of businesses in the cafe, restaurant and catering sector are small businesses with 19 employees or less who don’t have the in-house resources or expertise required to deal with complex legislation.”
A spokeswoman for the Small Business Development Corporation said suggestions made in the report would need to be “investigated further by the relevant state and federal agencies to determine their practicality” but could lead to pragmatic reforms.
With the release of the State Budget on May 10, Treasurer Ben Wyatt said changes to ease the “regulatory burden” on small businesses were on the way.
“We know excessive or out-of-date regulation and red tape can create major roadblocks for business and it’s important to reduce this burden to increase innovation, employment opportunities and the competitiveness of the WA economy,” he said.