A hearing into wage theft was recently held in Townsville as part of a State Government inquiry. Townsville Tenpin and Fun Centre Noel Ambler, made a submission.
Noel’s view is that most small business try to do the right thing. The best way for government to ensure wage theft is reduced is to simplify the Awards system, the regulatory framework for wages.
The Chamber agrees, and CEO Marie-Claude Brown was at the hearing to support Noel.
Here are excerpts of Noel’s submission, published with permission.
The reasons why wage theft is occurring, including whether it has become part of the business model for some organisations
The question for small business being such a substantial sector, why does it fail to get positive representation, especially in such major issues as this, and why do many decisions effecting small business be made by people who have never been in small business advised by people who have also never been in small business.
Currently I noted 51 Submissions (to the inquiry). 7 from Business organisations, unfortunately no individual small businesses. Probably too busy keeping the doors open and putting out bushfires.
44 from individuals and organisations representing employees.
National Retail Association contained in its submission (that) Queensland also had the second best rate of wages non compliance, at only 15.2%.
Justice Ross, President of the Fair Work Commission was candid in a recent ABC interview acknowledging the difficulties for employees and employers alike trying to be compliant.
Justice Ross said that most small business operators wanted to meet their legal obligation, although there was only a “small minority that deliberately avoid” them.
For the balance, I think that they just want to know what it is they have to pay their employees and what their legal obligations are.
The Queensland Government must acknowledge that the vast majority of employers are working hard to pay employees their legal entitlements but are struggling with complex award terms and that underpayment of wages will result from a complex system.
President Ross reflected on the importance of making awards easier to understand for small business; the largest group of employers in Australia.
The characterisation of underpayments as ‘theft’ is misleading, in appropriate, and has the potential to unfairly brand every failure to correctly calculate an employee’s pay as criminal
Honest errors do occur. To further demonstrate the complexity of the current system.
My representation is the Amusement,Events and Recreation Award 2010 leisure and recreation facilities and centres;
(The) Award contains
- 62 pages,
- 32 versions and 31 Variations
- 9 Employee Classification’s
- Plus 9 other occupations not covered by the award but could have employees employed in this sector.
How does the small regional 12 lane bowling centre cope with the complexities of this?
Another example of people who have never been in small business advised by people who have also never been in small business.
From the huge number of businesses, the examples of so called wage theft are minimal, and yes every sector does have individuals who will deliberately rort the system.
It is grossly unfair and insulting to label the huge number of small business with so called wage theft when the vast majority make every endeavour to do the right thing.
In my specific industry after 13 years I had only one major payment issue. (…)
It is a disgrace to say it has become part of the business model for some organisations, and whoever penned that reference should spend time in a small business.
Running small business is not just ensuring you are paying staff correctly, we now have a myriad of compliance issues from WH&S, to food handling and preparation.
Plus we have all of the 3 levels of government charging us various fees and charges ranging from backflow device registration to RMLV accreditation. Then we have to supply information about our business to the ABS who will fine us if we do not complete in time. Not to mention the regular BAS that has to be done.
It is amazing we have any time to actually serve customers.
Our major issue lies in a system created by people who have never been in small business advised by people who have also never been in small business have now made small business very complex.
Recently on the radio I heard that a small business owner had worked an employee in one week for 6 days at 12 hours a day and the speaker had called it slavery.
Well, believe it or not that is what many small business owners do every week, just to survive.
When small business has a good employee, they bend over backwards to keep them, often providing benefits more than pay. Good employees are gold and very hard to get. Ask any small business.
So please do not demonise and place another impediment on small business as they are the engine room of our economy.