Thursday, 26 April 2018 12:22

Fair Work Ombudsman launches new online support service for SMBs

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Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman has launched a virtual hub providing resources for small business owners seeking information about their workplace obligations.

Launch of the new service — Small Business Showcase — comes as the Fair Work Ombudsman’s reports that its dedicated small business helpline has received its 500,000th call since it was set up at the end of 2013.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the Small Business Showcase consolidates all the information and resources a small business needs in one place and covers topics including hiring employees, calculating pay, keeping accurate records and resolving workplace issues.

It also includes six instructional videos demonstrating how small business owners can use Fair Work Opinion polls and surveys run throughout the showcase.

{loadpositioin peter}The showcase is running alongside the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Workplace Basics campaign in which inspectors are auditing and assisting businesses access and navigate the wide range of free resources available to help them meet their obligations.

James says the Workplace Basics campaign will see inspectors audit 1000 businesses across Australia to check compliance and ensure employers are getting the basics right.

She urged small business owners to participate in the showcase to ensure they’re up-to-date with their obligations under workplace law.

“Australia’s workplace relations system is complex and can be hard to navigate, particularly for time-poor small and family businesses.

“Our experience, backed up by research, is that small businesses can be overconfident when it comes to compliance – failing to check the rules to ensure they’ve got things right.”

According to James, successive campaigns undertaken by her agency have shown consistently lower rates of workplace compliance amongst small businesses when compared to larger businesses (an average 15% lower over the past two and a half years).

“Our Small Business Showcase is a great opportunity for small businesses to brush up on their workplace relations knowledge, download practical resources and find out more about the assistance the agency can provide.

“We take a proportionate and fair approach to enforcement action, but we also expect employers to have checked the rules that apply to them – if not with the Fair Work Ombudsman, with a qualified adviser. We also need them to promptly rectify any errors and back-pay workers what they are owed when they arise.”

James says small businesses should also be aware that changes made by the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 have doubled the maximum penalty for failing to keep employee records or issue pay slips to $63,000 for a company and $12,600 for an individual, and tripled the maximum penalty for knowingly making or keeping false or misleading employee records to $12,600 for an individual.

And James says that the agency receives thousands of calls from small business owners each year.

“We set up the small business helpline to ensure that the specific needs of small businesses are recognised and accounted for.

"While we offer this free service and I’m delighted half a million businesses have called since its establishment in 2013 to receive tailored workplace advice, too many small businesses are continuing to get the basics wrong when it comes to paying workers correctly and meeting record-keeping requirements.

“Small errors arising from issues such as not passing on the annual wage increase or incorrectly classifying workers can add up to big underpayments over time – which can make for expensive and unexpected back-payment bills down the track.

“What we want to do now is make it even easier for small businesses to access the information they need to implement positive workplace practices and help their business succeed at any time of the day.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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