Sunday 10 February, 2013
The Fair Work Ombudsman is right to crack down on widespread exploitation of unpaid workers ('Exploited interns in legal sights', 7 February), but the complex laws regarding apprenticeships and similar arrangements must be made clearer for small business. Many small firms are being caught off guard by the murky rules, and it is likely that the FWO will sweep up some of these employers, because the law is so difficult to implement in practice. While it is important for most work to be paid for at the minimum wage or better, internships and apprenticeships play an important role in assisting young people in particular to break into work. In addition to the FWO's proposed education campaign, the Federal Government would be wise to consult closely with small business to assess the scope of unclear regulations, extending beyond unpaid experience, to requirements for home-based firms and those operating online. Only with reform to ambiguous workplace legislation will the Australian small business sector be able to continue to create jobs and critical pathways to them, including apprenticeships and internships.