Monday 12, Feb 2024

IR laws may impact small business

Businesses need to take a deep interest in the implications of the recent industrial relations changes passed through the Senate late on Thursday 9th February. The reforms, though aiming to address long-standing issues in workplace relations, are feared they might inadvertently undermine the agility of businesses and introduce a layer of complexity, cost, and bureaucracy that could disproportionately impact small-medium operators.

As part of the changes, the “right to disconnect,” allowing employees to ignore work communications outside of work hours if not compensated, aims to balance work and personal life. The reforms also address gig economy and casual work, seeking fairer conditions and pay. These changes signify a shift towards protecting workers’ rights but do have the potential to present more challenges and more adjustments for businesses, especially small business, which must navigate new complexities and possible increased operational costs.

These changes may stifle the flexibility and adaptability that small businesses need to thrive.

Unlike larger corporations, small-medium enterprises often lack the legal and administrative resources to navigate through increased regulations, making it more challenging to compete and innovate. This situation could lead to a dampening of entrepreneurial spirit and a reduction in job creation, particularly in regions like Geelong where small businesses are vital to the local economy.

As business owners and leaders take on yet another workplace consideration and shoulder the potential risk and implications, more administration and compliance stress is being added to an already over-legislated business environment.

Moreover, the potential for these reforms to complicate the employment landscape raises questions about Australia’s attractiveness as a destination for business investment and talent. At a time when global competitiveness is more important than ever, and fast-growth regions such as Geelong are attracting international investment interest, policies that add to the operational burdens of businesses could inadvertently push investors and entrepreneurs to look elsewhere, impacting our economic growth and prosperity in the long term.

The Geelong Chamber of Commerce believes in the importance of creating a balanced and fair industrial relations framework that protects workers’ rights while also considering the realities faced by all businesses. It is crucial that any changes in this area are made with a proportionate understanding of their potential impact on the small-medium business sector, which plays a critical role in our economy.

In light of these concerns, we advocate for a more consultative approach to policy-making in this area. It is essential for the voices of all business owners and representatives to be heard in the legislative process, ensuring that their unique needs and challenges are taken into account.

Jeremy Crawford