Industry bosses call for leave shake-up

Employers want to take rules around annual and sick leave out of awards and do more individual deals with workers in a revamp of workplace laws.

The Australian Industry Group says industrial relations will play a big role in reviving the economy once the health threats of the coronavirus crisis pass.

“Now is not the time for tired old arguments about IR reform,” chief executive Innes Willox said on Tuesday.

“What is needed is fresh thinking and a new approach, aimed at boosting productivity, growing jobs, encouraging investment and restoring economic growth.”

His organisation is consulting its members about specific changes but he has flagged a revamping of the award system, enterprise bargaining and the definition of casual employees.

The group wants to see matters that are dealt with in legislation come out of awards, including annual and sick leave, redundancy entitlements and public holidays.

Mr Willox said there were too many barriers to the use of “individual flexibility arrangements” that were intended to be a key part of the awards system but hadn’t lived up to this potential.

In enterprise bargaining, Ai Group is calling for the better off overall test to replaced with a measure of no disadvantage and to stop unions becoming involved where they don’t represent any of the employees covered by the agreement.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also turned its thoughts to workplace rules, writing to the government with five proposals for change.

These include staggered start and finish times without having to pay overtime and allowing businesses to stand down employees for a further six months beyond the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that unions and employer groups are able to come together in times of crisis for the betterment of Australian workers,” chief executive James Pearson wrote.

The government has flagged a shake-up of industrial relations as it looks to boost productivity as part of the economic recovery.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the decades of prosperity may have led employers and workers to settle for the current system and its rigidity around relationships.

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