I write to you about two major developments for small businesses in NSW – the passing of the Small Business Commissioner Bill 2013 by the NSW Parliament and changes to the Workers Compensation Scheme.
Small Business Commissioner Bill 2013
Small businesses can now enjoy a more level playing field with the passing by the NSW Parliament on 2 May 2013 of the Small Business Commissioner Bill 2013. This legislation means that the 680,000 small businesses in NSW now have the strongest possible support that has ever been available to them.
Through the NSW Small Business Commissioner, small businesses will now have an independent statutory officer who can investigate allegations of unfair treatment and unfair contract terms. This will ensure that government and big business are accountable in instances where their practices impact unfairly on small businesses. The NSW Small Business Commissioner will continue to be a strong voice for small businesses and provide a central point of contact for small business complaints.
Under the legislation, the NSW Small Business Commissioner will be able to:
• Require parties to a dispute to attend mediation prior to the initiating of a legal process. Penalties can be imposed on those that do not play ball.
• Investigate allegations of unfair treatment and unfair contract terms in a neutral and independent manner.
• Require local councils, State Government bodies and businesses to provide information or answer questions if the Commissioner acts upon a complaint.
• Report directly to Parliament where there is an issue of real importance to small businesses.
The new legislation means a fairer operating environment for small business, and it will now be more difficult for government agencies, local councils and other businesses to dismiss their concerns. Parties that previously thought themselves unaccountable will now have to join the ranks of those who have always done the right thing.
One of the most common frustrations received by our Office has been the issue of WorkCover premiums and how they are applied. The NSW Government has listened to these concerns.
WorkCover changes announced yesterday signal a positive change for the small businesses of NSW which will reduce average workers compensation premiums by 7.5 per cent.
If you are an employer whose basic premium is between $10,001 and $30,000, Work Cover has reclassified you from a medium to a small business employer. As a small business employer you will benefit from stable and predictable premiums.
• Employer Safety Incentive: You now receive a 10 per cent premium discount up-front at each policy renewal. If you have no workers off injured for more than 4 weeks during the policy period you can keep that 10 per cent when it comes time for your hindsight premium adjustment.
• Return to Work Incentive: If you lose your Employer Safety Incentive at any point in a policy period you can receive the Return to Work Incentive if all workers injured during the policy period return to pre-injury employment within 13 weeks. This will grant you a 10 per cent reduction on your premium at hindsight adjustment.
• Renewal: You will be told your premiums 6 weeks before policy renewal and you no longer have to estimate and advise your insurer about the wages you expect to pay next year. Your insurer will use the latest information you have provided about wages and your policy will automatically renew on the renewal date.
• Early payment: If you pay the full premium by the due date you will receive a 5 per cent discount.
To put these changes in perspective, for an electrical services company in the city’s west that has a wages bill of $851,020 would have previously had a workers compensation premium bill of $32,147. Under the NSW Government’s new package the premium will now be halved – with a $16,300 bill if the company pays up front and on time.
Please call 13 10 50 or go to www.workcover.nsw.gov.au for more information on these reforms.
These changes to the small business landscape in NSW are very significant developments in terms of reducing costs and red tape and improving the economic climate for small business. I invite you to contact my Office on 1300 134 359 or email@example.com if you need our assistance.
NSW Small Business Commissioner