In focus

Small business employers make up a large portion of employers in Australia. Many of these businesses have a limited knowledge of workplace laws or the role of the Commission as an independent tribunal and its processes.

Small business tends to interact with the Commission the most in relation to unfair dismissal claims made against them, and with general protections and anti-bullying applications. They are also more likely than larger employers to be directly affected by modern awards, with more employees of small businesses having their conditions set by these awards.

Many of the changes introduced over the last year will assist small business. For example, the new website has a dedicated entry point for small business employers to help them find the information they need quickly and efficiently. The virtual tour explains in short videos how to respond to unfair dismissal claims, what happens at conciliation and how to prepare for formal proceedings. We have also simplified our forms and developed tools and checklists to make it easier for small business employers to represent themselves at the Commission.

The conduct of conciliations in unfair dismissal applications by telephone is convenient and efficient, especially for small business employers outside capital cities. The pro bono legal scheme provides independent legal representation for employers when dealing with jurisdictional objections in unfair dismissal applications.

Administrative procedures are also in place to identify unfair dismissal applications that are clearly outside the Commission’s jurisdiction and where possible these are dealt with by an applicant withdrawing their application, and the employer not having to participate in any proceeding.

We will continue to work with the small business community to provide relevant information in useful ways. In addition to user forums that include small business representatives, in March 2014 we collaborated with the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Building and Construction to convene a Small Business Roundtable which provided a valuable opportunity to hear from small business representatives.

We have also undertaken a research project to gain insight into the needs of small business and will use this to further develop our processes next year and beyond.