Happy employee

Government seeks more harmonious workplaces

Published: 10 December 2019

A discussion paper was released last week, seeking submissions from all interested stakeholders about ways to improve business productivity, grow wages and reduce industrial conflict through the promotion of harmonious and cooperative workplaces.

To be led by Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, the review responds to calls from business to make the laws clearer and simpler. 

"Research shows that when employers and employees work together to improve the performance of a business, they jointly share in the benefits that flow from that collaboration, including improved productivity, higher wages, more innovation, greater job security and better prospects for career enhancement and skills development," Attorney-General, Christian Porter, said.

"Yet employee engagement levels in Australia are low compared to other countries such as the US and Canada. Workplaces where engagement levels are low have also been shown to suffer from higher levels of conflict and industrial unrest.

"This suggests to me that there is a significant opportunity to turn this situation around in Australian workplaces and, in the process, deliver strong benefits for employers, employees and the national economy.

"Importantly, legislative reforms are not required to achieve these sorts of positive outcomes. Instead, what is needed is fresh thinking and better management cultures that view and treat workers as assets, rather than merely as a cost of production."

In releasing the discussion paper, the government provide possible examples of ways to create cooperative and harmonious workplaces, including:

  • giving workers a financial interest in the company through employee share schemes;
  • introducing reward and recognition systems such as performance-based pay; and
  • empowering employees by giving them a voice in the decision-making process.

The aim of the discussion paper is to collect and collate examples of best practice from around Australia and the world, with a final report to be made publicly available as a tool to help businesses identify ways to improve their workplace cultures and practices.

Addressing the Business Council of Australia last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that his government would be taking a “comprehensive and methodical ‘fresh look’ at the operation of our industrial relations system”. 

“The discussion papers being released by the Minister provides the opportunity to bring forward evidence on aspects of the IR system holding back growth and high-wage jobs”.

Submissions close on 28 February 2020.

The AMCA has begun preparing a submission and encourages all members to contact Policy Manager, Ben Hawkins, for further information.

Download the discussion paper here