COSBOA frustrated with government push for IR changes affecting small businesses

COSBOA IR changes (1)
Bill’s complexity could cause major headaches for SMEs.

The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) has raised concerns that the latest tranche of complex industrial relations (IR) changes will push small businesses to the wall.

COSBOA CEO Luke Achterstraat expressed his alarm over the move by the Federal Government to push the passage of the Closing Loopholes Bill through the Lower House despite being widely rejected as flawed and unworkable by small businesses.

“The sheer complexity of the bill will turn headaches into migraines for businesses already grappling with a complex system,” Achterstraat said, adding that 90 per cent of small businesses surveyed by COSBOA said they will be less likely to employ if the changes proceed, and that complex IR changes now rank as the biggest risk facing small businesses in coming months.

“In an environment of rising energy, rent, insurance and borrowing costs topped with the growing risk of cyber-attacks, it is remarkable that IR complexity is now the number one risk facing small business – this is government-inflicted risk,” Achterstraat added.

Achterstraat pointed out that the IR changes came at a time when small businesses could least afford it.

“Currently 43 per cent of small businesses are not profitable with owners paying themselves less than the average salary and working longer hours to keep their doors open,” he said. “Over 2.5 million small businesses in Australia including butchers, bakers, hairdressers and grocers will be required to interpret and satisfy an ongoing three-page, 15-factor determination test for casual workers – putting at risk their rostering process and the casual loading enjoyed by workers in a cost-of-living crisis.”

Given these misgivings, Achterstraat commented that the government has now shredded much of its hard-earned credibility on small business.

“The failure to even bother modelling the impact of the 800-page package on small business raises serious concerns about the Government’s promise to make life easier not harder for small businesses,” he said. “Heralded measures for small business including the Instant Asset Write Off and Energy Incentive are yet to be legislated, and now face the risk of being irrelevant for small businesses who face higher costs and the threat of closure.”

COSBOA acknowledged the efforts of lower house MPs including Dai Le, Allegra Spender, Zali Steggall, Kylea Tink, Rebekha Sharkie and others in voting against the Closing Loopholes Bill, not only for its harmful impact on small businesses but also for flawed process it went through. It has also called on the Senate as the ultimate house of review to reject the bill and press the reset button on the legislation.

“There’s no shortage of self-proclaimed small business acolytes and advocates in Canberra – now is the time for those who have listened to small businesses to stand up for what is right,” Achterstraat averred. “Decision makers need to understand that our industrial relations system is much more than a political plaything – it affects the daily lives of our small business owners and their five million employees.”

This article was first published on sibling website Inside Small Business.