YOUR business could be one of 10,000 Queensland companies to get a door knock from the Fair Work Ombudsman this year as part of a three-year nation-wide roll-out of 50,000 inspections.
Tagged as an education campaign, inspectors will visit small businesses throughout the country to help ‘guide them through’ Australia’s new workplace laws which came into effect on January 1, 2010.
The roll-out will target private sector employers entering the national workplace relations system for the first time.
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says the agency will ‘stand shoulder-to-shoulder’ with small businesses to assist them to better understand, comply with and maximise the benefits of the new legislation.
“We are very serious about our job of building knowledge and fairer workplaces and are strongly focused on ensuring the community understands its workplace rights and obligations,” he says.
This year, the Fair Work Ombudsman plans to call on 10,000 small businesses in NSW, 10,000 in Queensland, 5000 in South Australia and 1000 in Tasmania.
Australian Business Lawyers partner Tim Capelin, believes inspectors will be checking compliance. While unions now have increased entry rights, he says it’s the ombudsman that employers ‘should be more concerned about’.
“Ignoring the laws is a high risk option, it has a charter to enforce laws,” said Capelin, speaking at an IR breakfast on the Gold Coast today.
Queensland businesses can expect additional visits in 2011 and 2012.
Nicholas Wilson says inspectors will adopt a flexible, fair approach to businesses found to be in breach of the new laws.
“It is always our preference to work with employers to educate them and help them voluntarily rectify any non-compliance issues we identify,” he says.
“The Fair Work Act gives us a safety net of fair, relevant and enforceable minimum employment terms and conditions by which to encourage harmonious, productive and co-operative workplace relations.”
Wilson says that of the 30,000 matters his inspectors investigate annually, 99 per cent are resolved co-operatively and voluntarily by employers without the need for litigation.
“Other than in exceptional circumstances, we do not initiate legal action against businesses where they have demonstrably tried to do the right thing,” he says.
Meanwhile, the Queensland Government has become the first in Australia to sign on to a national challenge of providing 50,000 jobs to unemployed Indigenous workers.
In a venture with Australian Employment Covenant (AEC), the government will offer a minimum of 2800 Indigenous employment positions within the Queensland public sector for blue, white and green collar jobs.
Fortescue Metals CEO and chairman of the AEC Andrew Forrest, says the Bligh Government’s commitment will help the organisation reach its goal of 50,000 jobs for Indigenous workers.
“Every Australian employer, from the largest enterprises to the smallest businesses, has the opportunity to help end the vicious cycle of unemployment and poverty among Indigenous people.”
Supporting companies include banks nab and Westpac, retailer The Body Shop, greyhound Australia, and Manufacturing Skills Queensland.
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