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Labor's IR policies will do nothing to boost jobs and investment during the recovery

"The focus of IR reform during the recovery from the greatest economic decline since the Great Depression needs to be on measures to boost jobs and investment. Unfortunately, the policies being announced by the Opposition Leader today do not pass this test," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

Casual workers

"The vague indicia approach that the Federal Court adopted in the WorkPac v Skene and WorkPac v Rossato cases is unworkable in the real world. It appears that Labor wants to lock-in the uncertainty caused by these controversial decisions. What is needed is a definition of a 'casual employee' that recognises the very widespread industry practice. In the real world, employees who are engaged as casuals and paid a casual loading are treated as casual employees for the purposes of the Fair Work Act and awards. It is unfair to allow employees engaged and paid as casuals to turn around years later and argue for annual leave, sick leave, redundancy pay etc on the basis that they do not fit some vague definition of a 'casual employee', when they have been paid a 25% loading in lieu of the entitlements they are claiming.

"The Government's IR Bill that is before Parliament addresses the current major uncertainties and cost-risks concerning casual employment, and Ai Group is urging all Parliamentarians to support the Bill.

"The level of casual employment in Australia has remained stable for the past 23 years at around 20% of the workforce (19.3% in the latest ABS statistics).

Gig workers

"The gig economy is delivering huge benefits to the Australian community. The digital economy has created completely new jobs and new markets, and this is of course good for Australian workers. Many businesses would not have survived over the last 12 months without the services provided by gig businesses (e.g. many restaurants were able to quickly pivot to providing online delivery through collaboration with gig businesses).

"Despite being well under 1 percent of the workforce, gig workers are playing an important role in providing work and income to lots of people who do not find it easy to enter the labour market. Most gig workers engage in gig work to supplement their income – not as their main source of income.

"Deeming contract gig workers to be 'employees' under the Fair Work Act risks interrupting the growth of the gig economy and all the benefits to the community that flow from it. The existing legal tests that differentiate between employees and independent contractors apply equally to gig workers, just like other workers. Disturbing these tests is not in the interests of businesses, workers or the broader community.

Portable leave schemes

"Portable leave schemes operate in a few industries, notably construction and coal mining. They are funded by a levy on employers of up to 3% for long service leave alone. The Opposition's policy of a national portable leave scheme covering annual leave, sick leave and long service leave would require a very large levy on employers. This would operate as a tax on employment, and destroy jobs and investment.

'Same job, same pay'

"Labor's 'same job, same pay' policy appears to be similar to the policy announced before the last election. Awards and workplace laws apply to labour hire companies, just like other businesses. Businesses use labour hire to address seasonal demand, to cover unplanned absences, and to access staff with particular skills. Taking away the flexibility that labour hire businesses and their clients need would reduce jobs and investment and threaten the jobs of hundreds of thousands of labour hire workers.

Abolishing the ABCC and the ROC

"The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) are playing a vital role in ensuring that unions, industry associations and others comply with the law. Accordingly, there is no case for abolishing these bodies.

"Ai Group is urging Labor to support the Government's IR Bill, which was introduced into Parliament after 6 months of consultation with employers and unions. The Bill contains a series of modest but important changes to workplace relations laws.

"Ai Group looks forward to consulting with the Opposition about its IR policy proposals. We hope that the Opposition will take on board industry's concerns," Mr Willox said.

Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347