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Temporary IR reforms crucial to saving jobs and businesses, review finds

The temporary industrial relations flexibilities, introduced to support the JobKeeper scheme, were crucial to keeping Australian businesses afloat and workers in jobs during the pandemic, an independent review has found.

Temporary IR reforms crucial to saving jobs and businesses, review finds
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  • Staff Reporter
  • October 22, 2020
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The review, conducted by Nous Group and tabled in Parliament on Monday, found an estimated three out of four employers who accessed JobKeeper had used at least one of the temporary industrial relations flexibilities.

Nearly all of those employers said the flexibilities had been “important” or “essential” to maintaining their operations – between 84 and 98 per cent depending on the measure they used. They gave similar feedback about measures that helped to keep employees connected to their business.

According to the government, the unions too have acknowledged that the flexibilities had allowed employers to reallocate available hours more equitably among staff, rather than standing down some employees and not others.

Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, welcomed the review’s findings, which he said supported the government’s decision to extend the IR reforms for struggling businesses for a further six months.

“When the pandemic began, it quickly became clear that the Fair Work Act did not have the requisite level of flexibility built into it to enable struggling businesses to quickly, effectively and with certainty make necessary changes to their operations such as requiring staff to work from different locations or to perform different duties,” the Attorney-General said.

“Likewise, the stand-down provisions within the act were also very narrow and did not clearly support the ability to reduce employee hours to match the JobKeeper payment, which was vital for those businesses that had been forced to close or were experiencing significant turnover reductions.

“The temporary JobKeeper IR provisions gave businesses that flexibility, enabling them to quickly adapt to changing conditions and stay connected to their workforce, ensuring they would be ready to bounce back when conditions improved.”

Mr Porter noted that the relatively small number of complaints dealt with by the Fair Work Commission was further evidence that the scheme had worked as intended.

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