Award reliance and business size: a data profile using the Australian Workplace Relations Study

Business Labour force Questionnaire survey Industrial relations Australia
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Executive Summary

This report provides a data profile of Australian businesses using the Australian Workplace Relations Study (AWRS) and the Award Reliance Survey. It presents information on the characteristics and performance of businesses by business size and degree of award reliance and as such provides further understanding of the way businesses operate in Australia. This has been enhanced by the greater range and quantity of workplace relations (including degrees of award reliance) and business performance data collected from both enterprise level surveys as well as the linked nature of the AWRS survey, which has enabled data to be collected from employees working in the enterprises surveyed.

Data sources

This report uses data from two surveys commissioned by the Fair Work Commission. The AWRS is a linked employer-employee survey commissioned to inform workplace relations research at the enterprise level and, in particular, to allow for research that cannot be undertaken using separate employer and employee datasets. The study attempted to be representative of all non-farm Australian enterprises with five or more employees. Data were collected between February and July 2014 across the national workplace relations system on the characteristics and performance of both employers and their employees at the enterprise level. The Award Reliance Survey was undertaken in 2013 to quantitatively investigate award reliance across and within Australian workplaces, and to identify the ‘categories’ of award-reliant employees and their location on award classification scales. The research also examined wage-setting practices of employers and reasons why employees were paid award rates.

Characteristics of businesses

The analysis of business characteristics found that there was some variation in business composition between award-reliant businesses and non award-reliant businesses and between small and larger businesses. Award-reliant businesses were relatively more likely to be a not-for-profit institution, operate in regional/rural areas and be in the Retail trade and Accommodation and food services industries, and to operate on weekends than non award-reliant businesses.

In other areas, such as work practices and workforce changes, the greatest similarity was found for businesses with no award-reliant employees and businesses with up to half of their employees award reliant, rather than other business types or business size.

The most common flexible work practice across all business sizes and degrees of award reliance was flexible start and finish times. An increase or decrease in demand for products/services was the main reason for an increase or decrease in jobs.

The reasons for pay-setting arrangements were relatively similar across business sizes but differed by degree of award reliance. Businesses with more than half of their employees award reliant were more likely to report that they used awards because of affordability and that they did not want to pay more. For businesses with up to half of their employees award reliant, it was that awards were appropriate/fair remuneration.

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