The publication of the Productivity Commission’s issues papers on its inquiry into the Australian workplace relations system gives employers the opportunity to make their views known and potentially influence future workplace relations policy.

Productivity Commission

In January 2015, the Productivity Commission (Commission) published five issues papers summarising the scope of its inquiry into the workplace relations framework in Australia and seeking submissions on the issues that it raises.

The Commission is the Australian Government’s independent research and advisory body on a range of issues affecting the welfare of Australians.  It has been tasked by the current Government to undertake an enquiry into the workplace relations framework in Australia.  The Government has made it clear that it intends to use the report of the Commission to develop its workplace relations policy to take into the next election.

Scope of the inquiry

The issues set out in the papers are extensive and reflect the Commission’s initial views on the priority questions.  The issues papers seek submissions on matters such as:

  • The Federal minimum wage
  • Penalty rates
  • Greenfields agreements
  • Agreement making, particularly the BOOT test, productivity commitments, good faith bargaining
  • Individual flexibility arrangements, both their current use and the question of how a workplace relations system should address the desire by employers and employees for flexibility in the workplace
  • Industrial action
  • The unfair dismissal, adverse action and bullying jurisdictions of the Fair Work Commission
  • The effectiveness and performance of the Fair Work Commission and Fair Work Ombudsman
  • Anti-competitive conduct, including secondary boycotts
  • Independent contractors and sham contracting
  • Right of entry
  • Transfer of business
  • Long service leave

The Government has asked the Commission to undertake a wide ranging inquiry into the above matters, noting that they influence productivity and internal cultures of workplaces, as well as affecting workers’ terms, profitability, industrial relations, income distribution and impacting on unemployed as well as employed workers.  The Commission’s brief is to go beyond a simple review of the current system and to consider the type of system that might be best suited for Australia in the long term.

How to make your voice heard

All interested parties are invited to provide their views on the matters raised in the issues papers by way of brief comments, formal written submissions or at a public hearing.  Submissions must be sent to the Commission by 13 March 2015.   It is expected that a draft report will be issued in June or July 2015, with public hearings to be held after that time and a final report expected in November 2015.

Whilst given the current political landscape in Australia, there has to be a question as to the extent to which any of the Commission’s ultimate recommendations will be implemented.  However, in light of the breadth of the review, this is an excellent opportunity for corporations to raise any issues that they have with the current system and particularly how it may impact upon productivity, profitability and engagement.

You can download the five issues papers by clicking this link.