With between 12 and 15 employees, Florey Medical Centre is a textbook small business.
Unsurprisingly, like most small businesses, that staff base does not include an in-house HR specialist.
What the business does have is a membership with the Canberra Business Chamber that has endured 20 years and counting, and it’s been a lifeline on more than one occasion.
“They cover a broad remit of things that are essential to all businesses but which often small businesses simply don’t have the resources to cover themselves,” practice manager Gay Robertson said.
“As a small business, we don’t have that in-house expertise, so we rely heavily on them for guidance for all employee-related matters.
“We consult with them from the very beginning, starting with developing an employee’s contracts using their templates, to making amendments to contracts and so on.
“It extends to guidance on best practices for dealing with performance issues.”
Canberra Business Chamber’s employer assist services invite members to access the Chamber’s team of employment experts.
Businesses can call the helpline direct to get answers to their questions within minutes.
It covers the spectrum of enquiries from day-to-day advice to HR crises, enabling employers to hone in on their specific issues and offering peace of mind that they have the correct answers.
Ms Robertson said without the CBC, Florey Medical Centre would likely have turned to public resources such as those available from the Fair Work Ombudsman, which can be sub-optimal for small businesses.
“It’s fairly generic advice. It could take a great deal of time trawling through enormous amounts of information to find the right answers, and we might still not be sure, as many of the issues that arise are one-offs,” she said.
“With the Chamber, we have confidence that we can talk about specific incidents and ask for specific guidance.”
The Chamber’s experts can advise on modern award interpretation and compliance, employment contracts, employer termination and employee resignation, employee entitlements, National Employment Standards and related laws, counselling and discipline, enterprise agreements and bargaining, bullying and harassment, independent contracting agreements, equal employment opportunity (EEO) and discrimination and more.
The sheer volume of matters employers must be aware of can be overwhelming.
Moreover, there are frequent changes to industrial relations regulation, and the onus is on businesses to ensure they remain across these.
For example, the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 and Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 have major implications for businesses in 2023, including considerations that prohibit pay secrecy, the sunsetting of ‘zombie agreements’, intractable bargaining, changes to the Better Off Overall Test and positive duty to eliminating as far as possible sexual harassment.
Employers must understand their changing obligations in relation to things like pay security, prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, changes to flexible working arrangements, fixed-term contracts and supported bargaining, to name a few.
While regulation advice might seem like common sense, the language can be complex.
Ms Robertson said for this reason often businesses just need assurances they’re on the right track.
“It’s not necessarily always an adversarial situation between employer and employee – often we’re just looking for reassurance that we’re doing things correctly,” she said.
“It offers peace of mind for both parties that we’re taking care of our staff. It’s highly important to us that we treat our team fairly and comply with the law.
“We wouldn’t have the capacity in our business to guarantee that without the Chamber as a consulting resource.”
For more information on how the employer assist program visit Canberra Business Chamber.