Michael Pegg, Jobs Australia

Whenever an organisation employs someone to do work, they enter into the world of industrial relations and human resource management.  It’s not usually the main focus for the organisation and it can be hard to see why clause xyz of the something or other award matters.  But it in the world of employment, it is easy for things to go wrong and cost not just money, but time and disruption to the services we provide to our clients and the community as part of our mission. 

Employer associations provide advice and assistance when disputes occur.  Just as importantly, they provide employers with information and resources to help prevent disputes in the first place.  Ideally, they help to promote employment practices that optimise how you work towards your mission. And the sector relies on employer associations to represent their interests in award proceedings in the Fair Work Commission, and in discussions with government on policy issues that affect workforce. 

What could possibly go wrong?

Some recent community sector examples of the work of employer associations include:

  • A not for profit organisation providing community education engaged its educators as independent contractors.  A tax office audit found them to actually be employees, leading to a large bill for back pay of award entitlements and tax adjustments. They joined an employer association who then helped them to manage that and avoid closing down, but good advice earlier would have easily prevented the problem.
  • A small community centre was faced with a bullying claim in the Fair Work Commission (FWC).  The employer denied any bullying and said it was really that the employee did not accept being managed.  With assistance from their employer association they were ultimately able to persuade FWC to dismiss the claim.
  • A manager attended a workshop run by their employer association and learned that the approach they were about to take in a restructure would expose them to the risk of a number of expensive unfair dismissal claims.  They obtained more detailed advice from their association and were able to take a different approach that met their needs and that all employees ended up supporting.

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