Discussion paper

Workplace relations framework: issues papers

22 Jan 2015

The Australian Government's objectives in commissioning this Inquiry are to examine the current operation of the Fair Work Laws and identify future options to improve the laws bearing in mind the need to ensure workers are protected and the need for business to be able to grow, prosper and employ.

Scope of the Inquiry

The Productivity Commission will assess the performance of the workplace relations framework, including the Fair Work Act 2009, focussing on key social and economic indicators important to the wellbeing, productivity and competitiveness of Australia and its people.

A key consideration will be the capacity for the workplace relations framework to adapt over the longer term to issues arising due to structural adjustments and changes in the global economy.

In particular, the review will assess the impact of the workplace relations framework on matters including:

  • unemployment, underemployment and job creation
  • fair and equitable pay and conditions for employees, including the maintenance of a relevant safety net
  • small businesses
  • productivity, competitiveness and business investment
  • the ability of business and the labour market to respond appropriately to changing economic conditions
  • patterns of engagement in the labour market
  • the ability for employers to flexibly manage and engage with their employees
  • barriers to bargaining
  • red tape and the compliance burden for employers
  • industrial conflict and days lost due to industrial action
  • appropriate scope for independent contracting.

In addition to assessing the overall impact of the workplace relations framework on these matters, the review should consider the Act's performance against its stated aims and objects, and the impact on jobs, incomes and the economy.

The review should examine the impact of the framework according to business size, region, and industry sector. It should also examine the experience of countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The workplace relations framework encompasses the Fair Work Act 2009, including the institutions and instruments that operate under the Act; and the Independent Contractors Act 2006.

The review will make recommendations about how the laws can be improved to maximise outcomes for Australian employers, employees and the economy, bearing in mind the need to ensure workers are protected, the need for business to be able to grow, prosper and employ, and the need to reduce unnecessary and excessive regulation.

The Productivity Commission will identify and quantify, as far as possible, the full costs and benefits of its recommendations.

An overarching principle for any recommendations should be the need to ensure a framework to serve the country in the long term, given the level of legislative change in this area in recent years.

In conducting the review the Productivity Commission will draw on the full spectrum of evidence sources including, but not limited to:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics data and publications
  • data sources maintained by other relevant Government bodies, including but not limited to the Department of Employment, Fair Work Commission and Fair Work Ombudsman
  • employers or their representatives
  • employees or their representatives
  • academia
  • special interest groups.

The review should also identify gaps in the evidence base where further collection may assist in the analysis of the overall performance and impact of the system.

Initial submissions are due by Friday 13 March 2015. Opportunity for further comment will be sought upon release of the draft report in June/July 2015.

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