Preparation helps avoid conflict

THE drive to make a profit often means many small businesses put employment relations and industrial relations in the too-hard basket.

This becomes problematic, however, when conflict arises, meaning employees and employers are often ill equipped to work through to a reasonable outcome.

Employment Services and Solutions Australia director Jamie Williams has identified a need for practical IR advice for individuals grappling with an employment relations situation.

“It’s (IR) become quite complex and it’s become a lot more complicated because of the unfair dismissal, and employees are becoming much more knowledgeable,” Mr Williams said. “There’s demand for seven-day trading and yet the awards have failed to keep up with that demand. Small business operators are narrowly focused on running the business and making money.”

Concern that many businesses are flying blind has prompted the Employment Services and Solutions Australia to launch a seven-day employment relations telephone service for employers and employees seeking advice on issues such as wage rates, unfair dismissal and workplace disputes.

Often, when a small business is a family business, some of theses workplace issues are further compounded.

“Quite often employees aren’t the first priority when things go pear shaped and you need someone to get advice from,” Mr Williams said.

“Small businesses often don’t put the procedures in place and there’s a need for immediate advice.

“It’s practical advice – what we do is look at the situation and put it against the legislation and we hope to solve the problem. We’re not just an organisation that pumps out theory.”

The Government is able to offer help to individuals but only in terms of explaining legislation like unfair dismissal.

There aren’t a lot of other options for people caught in a difficult position at work and many people take advice from well meaning although uninformed friends and relatives.

“Part of the problem is what people hear down at the pub they quite often take that as gospel,” Mr Williams said.

The 1990 line is available seven days a week at a call cost of $3.85 per minute.

Ideally, Employment Services and Solutions Australia would like to see people ahead of any difficulties, but the reality is that much of the industrial relations work is undertaken following a breakdown in communications.

“People so often come to us after the event,” Employment Services and Solutions Australia director Graham Lilleyman said. “We’re pumping the service to get people to ring in advance. You end up spending six times as much in arrears and that’s a resource that small businesses just don’t have.”

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