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Fair Work Ombudsman reassures small business of support

Source – Fair work Ombudsman

Small business can count on our help – deal? The Fair Work Ombudsman has today reassured the small business community of its commitment to helping employers understand and comply with workplace laws.

However, Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says small business operators do need to make an effort to get the basics right in the first place.

“We know workplace laws can be complicated for the uninitiated, and for those who are not industrial experts, the margin for error is high,” she told the National Small Business Summit in Melbourne.

While most small businesses wanted to do the right thing, Ms James acknowledged that for employers faced with “a whole pile of rules you have to follow about all sorts of things, it is possible to get things wrong.”

“So here is our deal. We ask that you engage with us honestly and openly. That you use the tools and resources we provide and inform yourself,” she said.

“In return, you will be able to act with confidence. This protects you. It means that if a problem arises down the track, you can demonstrate your intention to do the right thing.”

Ms James told small businesses they had nothing to fear from the Fair Work Ombudsman “unless you deliberately exploit your employees or take advantage of those who are vulnerable.”

But she would frown upon employers who refuse to fix problems or continually ignore advice so they have a competitive advantage over others doing the right thing.

Ms James debunked perceptions in some quarters that the Fair Work Ombudsman was heavy-handed, revealing that only one in every 500 matters investigated ended up in Court.

“We have thousands of interactions with business owners every day, and yet very few issues see us reach for enforcement tools,” she said.

Ms James urged small business operators to use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s new website to assist them understand and comply with their workplace obligations.

“It prioritises the most common and fundamental information people look for. Where possible, it also tailors information for the user and provides specific answers that you can act on,” she said.

“You can save pages and you can set up your own space of regularly-used materials.”

Underpinning the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website tools and resources is its Small Business Helpline, where employers can get advice they can rely on with confidence.

“When you ring us, and in good faith seek our advice, we expect you to act on that advice. And when you do, if it turns out we have got it wrong, we will acknowledge this and not seek a penalty from you if breaches have occurred as a result,” Ms James said.

Commenting on the Modern Award review being undertaken by the Fair Work Commission, Ms James said that while the national system was now simpler than it was, there was still room for it to be made simpler and clearer again.

“At times, I listen into calls my Advisers take to get a sense of the issues people grapple with, and often we are asked about seemingly very basic issues,” she said.

 

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