The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) said it was critical retail employers understood their industrial relations obligations, after new research revealed four out of five small businesses were not ready for the introduction of the new workplace laws.

ARA director of employment relations Phil Barresi said the findings revealed over 45 per cent of small businesses currently have no systems in place to manage industrial relations laws and highlighted previous concerns that small retailers were ill-equipped to manage the impacts of new workplace laws, including the increased labour costs associated with modern retail award.

"In addition to these figures, a previous industry poll conducted by the ARA revealed over 82 per cent of small retailers would restructure their workforce, 65 per cent would shed staff and many would close their businesses because they believed they couldn’t cope with the changes to IR laws and the new retail award," said Barresi.

"It is clear small retailers are extremely concerned about the impact IR changes will have on their business. Before they make any changes, it is essential employers are equipped with the knowledge and understanding to meet their new legal obligations while still managing their workplace effectively.

"The Workplace Ombudsman’s chief counsel confirmed the most effective way for small retailers to seek advice about new IR laws is to contact their employer organisation, saying ‘their sound advice to members was the best insurance policy against intervention by IR enforcement agencies’," said Barresi.

Employment relations experts at the ARA will be running modern retail award briefing sessions in Sydney and Melbourne from May to December to help retailers understand:

. why modern awards have been created
. modern award terms
. impacts on existing employment arrangements
. benefits and drawbacks of the modern award
. alternative arrangements available to employers.