24 August 2010,


WORKPLACE relations legislation and in particular unfair dismissal laws remain as the key to winning the small business vote this federal election, according to national small to mid business organisation SME Boardroom.

New figures show 51 per cent of small business owners’ votes will be influenced by the LNP’s policy to reduce workplace law compliance.

A major focus of the survey is the response to the LNP’s ‘real action to support small business’ policy.

While the party’s policy to reduce company tax from 30 per cent to 28.5 per cent achieved the highest voting statistics (influencing 61.2 per cent of the votes), employment law matters dominated small business concerns.

The key issues for SMEs are the impact of unfair dismissal laws on employers, complex employment processes, the increased costs of superannuation, liability for parental leave and the availability of advice and assistance.

Consistent national policies for payroll tax, workers compensation and occupational health and safety are also high on the SME election agenda.

The response from Australia’s small business sector comes as Harmers Workplace Lawyers reveals general protection provisions are being more widely accessed by employees than ever.

The general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act state that an employer must not take any ‘adverse action’ against an employee because the employee has exercised or proposes to exercise a ‘workplace right’.

According to Harmers Workplace Lawyers partner Shana Schreier-Joffe, there’s been an increase in claims made under these provisions by employees and unions.

“These could include salary enquiries, flexible work requests as well as requests for further information regarding planned disciplinary action, so it’s easy to imagine how widely these provisions can be applied,” she says.

“Our advice to businesses is not to underestimate the wide-ranging reach of these provisions or the powers of the court or Fair Work to act where they feel adverse action has occurred.

“If an employee can demonstrate they have exercised an employment right as well as show some kind of adverse action taken by their employer as a result, then the onus rests with the employer to prove otherwise. Employers need to be able to document and prove that the adverse action was justified and unrelated to the employee exercising their workplace right.”

In the SME Boardroom survey results, the top three election-deciding issues by percentage were: tax (39.3); employment (23.1); and red tape (17.9).






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