Government-backed AI chatbot explains IR rule changes

AI For Business


cosboa ir Change small business budget Small Business Peak ai

COSBOA CEO Luke Achterstraat. Source: Provided.

A new government-backed information hub promises to help small businesses navigating complex industrial relations situations, providing artificial intelligence chatbots to handle business queries.

Launched last week, “Small Business Peak” is a new digital project by the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA).

Its main website provides free information sheets, timelines and detailed explanations of changes to the Industrial Relations Act.

The legislation covers updates such as the minimum wage increase which came into effect on 1 July, as well as changes to casual employment and the “right to disconnect” which will take effect from 26 August.

Other major changes in the landscape of labor-management relations include: Stable work, better wages and Closing loopholes Invoices and other expenses will be covered by the Small Business Peak materials.

The information hub will be updated to reflect any changes enacted in future.

COSBOA CEO Luk Achterstraat said it was crucial for small and medium-sized businesses to stay on top of the changing industrial relations landscape.

“Small and medium-sized businesses need to understand which IR changes apply to their business, when they come into effect, and how to ensure they meet their employer and corporate reporting responsibilities,” he said.

He added that these resources will help traders “save time and make it easier for them to find the information they need.”

AI chatbot in development

Beyond written fact sheets, Small Business Peak promises users access to an AI-powered chatbot that can answer basic questions about industrial relations reform.

The chatbot will be “trained” with documentation detailing relevant legal and regulatory changes.

“This means busy small business owners can receive fast, reliable answers to their advanced questions,” Achterstraat said.

The chatbot is not yet live but is due to go online next month after final testing.

While users are waiting for access, the website states that the chatbot should only be used for general inquiries.

“The chatbot uses artificial intelligence to apply workplace law to small businesses across the widest range of industries possible,” the website states.

“You can rely on the answers provided by the Department for general guidance on changes to industrial relations, but if you require specific advice relating to your business situation you should consult your own independent legal advisers.”

The Small Business Peak website also directs users to official websites of the Fair Work Ombudsman, Safe Work Australia and the Australian Taxation Office for more specific enquiries.

Small Business Peak is part of a $60 million workplace support plan

Small Business Peak is supported by the Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations through the Productivity Education and Training Fund.

The fund, which received $60 million over four years in the 2024-2025 Federal Budget, is designed to help business representative bodies and trade unions inform their members about relevant regulatory changes.

COSBOA was one of several major employer associations to receive grant funding.

This isn't the first time COSBOA has received taxpayer dollars to provide small business education: its Cyber ​​Warden program received $23.4 million in funding to help small businesses combat digital threats.

However, Small Business Peak marks one of the first times an explicitly AI-powered chatbot has been used to outline regulatory changes for government approval.

While AI capabilities are already being deployed in the private sector to help small businesses understand legal, tax and employment obligations, it is still new territory in official government and government-sponsored communications.

COSBOA believes that AI can be used effectively and responsibly, and calls for the establishment of a national strategy to manage its risks and opportunities.

In a joint statement signed by other business representatives and the Technology Council of Australia in October 2023, COSBOA said the economy could suffer losses without clear rules.

“Without national leadership, Australia will fall behind the world in seizing the economic opportunities of AI and its workers will not have the skills they need to leverage AI in their jobs,” the report said.

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