Draft report of Productivity Commission released into Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework – back on the ‘reform’ road
On 4 August 2015 the Productivity Commission released its draft report card on the review of the Australian workplace relations system.
You might recall that the Fair Work Act has been in place for over five years and due to the importance of getting this review right, HopgoodGanim Lawyers engaged with industry and our clients to put forward our own submission on the issues important to them.
The clear theme of our submission was the need to simplify a system that seems to become more complex every time it is reviewed.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 boasted 92 sections and two schedules totalling 22 pages.
The current Fair Work Act 2009 sports some 800 sections, most with multiple subsections, and five schedules totalling some 988 pages. In addition, there is a need to understand the Fair Work Regulations, transitional legislation, the regulations for the transitional legislation, the Registered Organisations Act, their supporting Regulations, the Building Industry Act and Regulations. To that point, let’s call it 1628 pages.
So what has happened this time around? Have we bucked the trend? Well let’s take a look at the view of the Productivity Commission:
“Despite sometimes significant problems and an assortment of peculiarities, Australia’s workplace relations system is not systemically dysfunctional. It needs repair not replacement.”
So some minor tweaks are needed; otherwise it’s as good as it gets. Why? The report suggests that this finding is based on the philosophy that:
“A workplace relations (WR) framework must recognise two features of labour markets.
The challenge for a WR framework is to develop a system that provides balanced bargaining power between the parties, that encourages employment, and that enhances economic efficiency. It is easy to over or under regulate.”
The report then goes on to provide various recommendations, which in the main increase regulation rather than make the existing system simpler or more efficient. The following key points are noted:
Some will argue that this is an opportunity lost to do a proper clean up. The result will be incremental change at the edges that will generally lead to more complexity, not less, and arguably minimal impact on what occurs now in workplaces.
We will engage with our clients over coming weeks to collect their thoughts and make representations to the Productivity Commission during the public consultation sessions which will be held in Perth on 14 September and Brisbane 21 September 2015.
A full copy of the draft report is available here.
For more information on Industrial and Employment Law matters, please contact HopgoodGanim Lawyers' Employment Law team.