Business calls for workplace flexibilities

A powerful alliance is calling for workplace laws to be temporarily made more flexible.
A powerful alliance is calling for workplace laws to be temporarily made more flexible.

Major business groups have called for revived powers to reduce workers' hours, stand staff down and direct people to take annual leave.

With more than half of Australia's population in lockdown, a powerful alliance is calling for workplace laws to be temporarily made more flexible.

That would also allow workers to be directed to work from home or different locations as well as perform different duties.

The Australian Industry Group, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Master Builders and the Australia Restaurant and Catering Industry Association have joined the push.

The Australian Retailers Association, National Retail Association and Australian Business Industrial are also on board.

In a joint statement, the business groups said existing staffing levels could be more easily maintained under the measures.

"We need these flexibilities urgently reinstated alongside government financial support in order to ensure businesses have the necessary tools available to keep as many employees in jobs as possible."

Similar flexible industrial relations rules were introduced at the height of national restrictions last year.

Unions negotiated safeguards to help ensure employees were not exploited during the temporary change.

The measures were introduced alongside JobKeeper wage subsidies designed to keep millions of workers connected to their employers.

The federal government has resisted calls for JobKeeper to be reinstated as it maintains a preference for disaster payments of up to $600 a week for workers suffering under lockdowns.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions warns reintroducing temporary flexibility measures without JobKeeper will put workers in a precarious position.

ACTU president Michele O'Neil urged the government not to cave to business demands and reinstate new job-protecting wage subsidies.

"The premature ending of JobKeeper in March was a big mistake," she said.

"We knew then that the pandemic wasn't over and that the failed vaccine rollout meant lockdowns weren't either."

Australian Associated Press