Queensland businesses ‘won’t hire’ new staff

 

Small business owners are afraid to hire staff amid COVID-19 uncertainty, confusing industry awards and unfair dismissal rules that many view are stacked against them.

Despite the Federal Government headlining job creation in last week's Budget, it's estimated three quarters of the nation's 2.3 million small business owners won't be hiring any time soon.

Council of Small Business Organisations Australia CEO Peter Strong said "it's too risky at the moment to employ someone".

"They are afraid of getting it wrong - it's so complicated and they see a lot of big businesses getting it wrong," he said.

COSBOA has called for a simple small business award, and Mr Strong said many business owners were worried about being taken to court for unfair dismissal.

One employer told News Corp Australia "it's stacked against you" when even new employees on probation could claim for unfair dismissal, while a sole trader said she had ignored opportunities to expand in recent years because "that meant employing staff".

The CEO of outsourced human resources provider HR Central, Damien Gooden, said it cost a worker about $75 to make an unfair dismissal claim through the Fair Work Commission, while employers who fought back could face thousands of dollars in legal fees.

 

Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong.
Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong.

 

"Even if you're right there's a huge cost - businesses just roll over and do a deal," he said.

COVID-19 was causing havoc with business hiring decisions, Mr Gooden said.

"Holding onto existing employees is enough of a risk at the moment, rather than bringing new ones on," he said.

"There's a lot of uncertainty around."

Small Business Australia executive director Bill Lang said it could be years before some businesses considered hiring.

"A majority of small businesses are very small and are not going to take the risk," he said.

Mr Lang said no business owner wanted to be stuck in legal battles.

"Many small business owners will pay out the person to make them go away, the lawyer gets their money then looks around for other people, and the business owner thinks 'how can I avoid employees?'," he said.

'WE WON'T BE HIRING'

There are no plans for Fortitude Valley landscape architects Vee Design to hire in 2020.

With staff down to working at 80 per cent capacity since the pandemic, director David Hatherly is aiming to return current staff to full-time hours before bringing on anybody new.

"We won't make any strategic hires until the start of next year," he said.

"There are lots of positive stories out there for the industry but it can change very quickly and there is certainly that apprehension for us.

"Any new people we hire won't be eligible for JobKeeper so it will put financial pressures on us if we make that change.

"It's not something we would do lightly, hiring someone new."

 

Vee Design director David Hatherly has put his staff down to 80 percent due to COVID-19, staff are working four-day weeks. Picture David Clark
Vee Design director David Hatherly has put his staff down to 80 percent due to COVID-19, staff are working four-day weeks. Picture David Clark

 

All of the firm's 18 employees are currently on JobKeeper and qualify to continue receiving the payment through to the end of March.

Mr Hatherly, 49, said although he was feeling optimistic about the future and hoped to hire a new business development manager in 2021, Vee Design would have been in its current position six months earlier if not for the pandemic.

"It's forced us to put more focus on monitoring and assessing our financial situation," the New Farm resident said.

"Unless those things are sitting comfortable there is no way we are in a position to hire anybody new."

 

 

JOBS 360 is a roundtable discussion that will explore how we can fix our national jobs crisis.
JOBS 360 is a roundtable discussion that will explore how we can fix our national jobs crisis.

 

Today at 8pm AEDT, News Corp will air its Jobs 360 panel discussion online here.

On Tuesday we will highlight some of the solutions our experts are advocating to head off the crisis and point to almost 100,000 jobs region by region to help those looking for a job get back to work.

 

Originally published as Queensland businesses 'won't hire' new staff

Bill Lang of Small Business Australia.
Bill Lang of Small Business Australia.


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