Businesses told they need not fear Fair Work Ombudsman

THE Fair Work Ombudsman has moved to put the small business sector at ease, saying it is there to help and not just act against those who do the wrong thing by employees.

In a speech to the Australian Industry Group today, Ombudsman Natalie James was at pains to emphasise the ombudsman was "here to help" businesses.

She said despite the "serious consequences" of breaching industrial relations laws, the FWO knew "most employers do want to do the right thing".

Ms James pointed to a record of litigating only 50 court cases last year, against the 25,000 complaints, and "more than half a million phone calls" the office received.

She said rather than penalise business, the FWO's ultimate aim was to "equip workplaces participants to make decisions about their businesses and their jobs".

"To give them confidence to manage their relationships in the workplace without the need for intervention from us," she said.

To that end, Ms James said the FWO had recently set up a small business team dedicated to working with the time-poor sector to improve workplace relations.

"Alongside vulnerable employees, they are the group that I would suggest most needs help from an authoritative source to help them navigate the legal framework," she said.

"They must navigate workplace health and safety, workers compensation, taxation, fair trading and licensing laws and industry frameworks as well as workplace laws.

"All this detracts from the time they can spend getting on with running and growing their business."

Ms James said as part of the Abbott Government's election commitments, the FWO was already working on a dedicated small business helpline and improved access to information.