Oddities in our workplace relations system – #2 classification structures

Do you find that the classification structures in the modern awards  that apply to your business don’t make sense or don’t fit your business operations very well or, in some cases, are just not easy to understand?

In many cases, you would be absolutely right to think so because they are, in the main, flawed in design.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, unions and employer organisations went through prolonged negotiations on what was then called development of skills-based classification structures.

In reality, in most industries, it was nothing of the sort – it was an industrial relations exercise which really amounted to little more than a negotiation of wage rates for different jobs and each industry did it differently.

Some awards just have AQF qualification levels as the basis for classifying people with little or no detail on job functions to be performed at each level. That is not very helpful especially when most of the workers in a business don’t have any of those qualifications but perform distinctly different jobs with greater or lesser skill requirements.

Others have classifications increasing on the basis of the size of the plant being operated without any reference to the complexity of or skills involved in performance of particular tasks.

Few modern awards consider the benefits and value of multi-skilling.

None take account of some fairly significant developments that have occurred since the structures were first established – like the world wide web, social media and GPS technologies. Some still refer to “typing” as distinct from “word processing” as a competency.

In 2010, we saw the introduction of so called “modern awards” which consolidated thousands of awards down to 122 modern awards but did little to improve the classification structures and clearly failed to recognise the technological changes that have affected the way we work.

Currently, we are nearing the end of the fifth year of our first four yearly review of modern awards and classification structures appear not to be even on the agenda.

What is clear is that we don’t have “modern awards” – and we are unlikely to in the foreseeable future.

If you want a classification structure that works for your business, you can have one provided you are paying sufficiently above award and your people are better off overall than they would be if you strictly applied award conditions.

If you would like to explore how to do that, give us a call on 0438 533 311 or email enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au.