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Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Today the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) has released a proposal for Award changes to make it easier for small businesses to employ.

The changes would operate as a model schedule to be integrated into all awards and would apply to businesses employing fewer than 40 full-time employees (FTEs) on an opt-in basis.

Seven areas of change are identified in COSBOA’s proposed SME Model Schedule. They include:

  • Specification of a single “all-hours” rate (commonly referred to as a loaded rate), with separate rates for weekdays and ‘weekend’ days

  • Directed work hours reduction, largely in line with current JobKeeper provisions

  • Flexible part-time employment allowing part-time employees to work flexibly belong their regular hours without being paid overtime

  • Universal casual to permanent conversion process that reflects the FWC Model Clause

  • Stand-down provisions that include supplementation of current legislative provisions to resolve uncertainty

  • Redundancy provisions, expanded from current NES provisions

  • Unfair dismissal, expanded from current NES provisions.

(Read the full proposal for further detail on the seven areas of change here).

COSBOA Chairman Mark McKenzie said “Small businesses are at a disadvantage under the current award system. It is complex, cumbersome, and doesn’t accommodate the needs of a typical SME workplace. SME owners are often afraid to employ because they don’t want to get caught up in the complexity of the system and make a mistake”.

“Unlike large companies, SMEs don’t have in-house IR and employment teams to take care of interpreting and complying with the award system. Nor do they have the money needed to employ expert IR lawyers to help them interpret complex Awards and legislation. They simply don’t have the capacity, nor the time, to utilise the enterprise bargaining mechanism which puts them at a distinct competitive disadvantage relative to larger businesses.”

Mr McKenzie added “the flexibility provisions identified in COSBOA’s proposal are considered essential if SME owners are to employ again in the face of unprecedented uncertainty about the future.”

SMEs have great potential to create employment. There were around 910,000 SMEs registered under the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program (employing an estimated 2.9M Australians). Within this context, and assuming up to 20% of these SMEs will not survive the current downturn, the employment of just 1 additional FTE by the remaining 80% of SMEs has the potential to generate up an estimated 728,000 jobs over the next 3-5 years.

Mr McKenzie concluded “COSBOA is hopeful that, in this unprecedented time of crisis, these proposed changes that were once politically unpalatable will be given serious consideration as essential components of jobs growth and economic recovery.”

Read the full proposal document here.



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