Comment on Workplace Relations Framework Inquiry

"The Productivity Commission inquiry into the performance of Australia’s workplace relations framework is a once in a generation opportunity to identify improvements to underpin successful and rewarding workplaces into the future,” Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“Global competition and markets are changing many of our workplaces and jobs forever,” Ms Westacott said.

“We need to rethink how we work and how we stay competitive to succeed in a global economy. Part of this is looking at whether our workplace relations system is helping us or holding us back.

“But we can’t get bogged down in old debates that won’t get us anywhere. We need to clean the slate and ask what framework will support successful workplaces and the creation of rewarding jobs in the future.

“In particular we welcome the Commission stating in its issues paper released today that it is open to proposals – either modelled on other countries or reflecting new ideas - which are less beholden to the past that achieve productive and fair workplaces.”

Ms Westacott said that as well as giving broad consideration to the ideal workplace relations system for the future, it must also be acknowledged that the current Act is out of sync with the needs of today’s economy.

“As the Productivity Commission notes, the combined influence of the employment contract, awards, the national employment standards and enterprise agreements on the employment relationship makes Australia’s workplace relations system one of the most complex in the world.

“The Fair Work Act has made it harder and more costly for businesses in some sectors to maintain or create jobs, and harder for business to respond quickly to increasing global competition.

“The Act also doesn’t give businesses enough flexibility to tailor employment to the needs of their enterprise or the needs and preferences of modern workers.

“This is not about returning to the debates of old, but about looking forward with a fresh eye. It’s about what needs to be improved to ensure the productive and rewarding workplaces of the future that businesses and employees want.

“The Business Council will be focused firmly on the future in making its submission to the inquiry and in working with all stakeholders, from government to the community and unions, to achieve the best outcome for all,” she said.