The role of business



Our ability to ensure people can access good work and good jobs is a critical part of the implicit social contract in Australian society. The nature of work should be a constant interest for anyone seeking to improve Australia’s prosperity.

The challenges in the future can only be met through a collective effort from all parties. Everyone has a part to play in improving our preparedness for the future world of work: businesses, governments, unions, not-for-profits and individuals.

Members of the Business Council take their responsibilities seriously. They understand that their people are critical to success. When our workforces need to adapt or transition in the future of work, our members are committed to helping them.

This guidance sets out the ideal roles and responsibilities for businesses. Some of the roles and responsibilities are essential (such as acting lawfully) but others may not always be possible for companies to implement because of particular circumstances. Nonetheless, we believe it remains helpful to articulate the goals that businesses should work towards.


The following sets out the roles and responsibilities of businesses in preparing for work of the future.


Businesses should:

Act lawfully, ethically and responsibly. In all respects, businesses must act lawfully. They should act ethically and responsibly, according to their best judgement.

In relation to their workforce, businesses must operate in line with workplace relations legislation (and any other legal requirements). However, striving for best practice, beyond minimum legal requirements, enhances the ability to attract, retain and reward workers.


Be profitable and create jobs. Well-managed, profitable businesses plan for and adapt to change. Successful businesses generate new and better jobs, better wages and better working experiences.

Being profitable is the only way businesses can achieve their purpose, invest in innovation, expand, employ more people, expand, increase wages, pay dividends to people who have put their own money at risk, and generate tax revenue.


Create a diverse and inclusive workplace. Australian businesses have an important role to play in fostering community wellbeing and promoting social and economic inclusion.

Businesses have a responsibility to establish a workplace culture where all individuals are respected, included and enabled to succeed.

Businesses should consider how changes in technology and the labour force can foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Innovative job design has the potential to make roles accessible to a more diverse range of candidates, which connects businesses to a broader pool of talent.

Adopting opportunities to implement flexible working arrangements enhances the ability to attract and retain talent, through accommodating individual working styles and needs (such as carer responsibilities).

Businesses should also be mindful of the needs of members of the community who experience greater barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment. Business should work with government on practical programs that can cater for the needs of disadvantaged cohorts like long-term unemployed people. Change should be managed in a way to do what is possible to ensure these members of the community are not adversely impacted by the future of work.


Plan for their future workforce. Just as businesses prepare a strategy for their business, they should be strategically planning their future workforce.

Businesses should understand the likely skills and capabilities they will require from their workforce in future, and likely areas of gaps or surplus.


Be transparent about the direction of their workforce. Companies should communicate clearly and early with the workforce, their representatives, and educational institutions about disruption and foreseeable changes in the workforce’s skills profile. Communication needs to be as timely as possible, delivered as sensitively as possible, and contain all critical information that the impacted individuals need to know.


Help displaced workers. When businesses need to respond to change by changing their labour needs, they should provide support for workers who are captured by large-scale displacement, by giving them as much notice as possible, and connecting them with the support services that are available to assist them to move to different roles, companies or careers.

This responsibility falls especially on large businesses, who are more likely to have the resources and breadth to provide required support.

Businesses should measure and track their progress in any support packages for displaced workers.


Contribute to developing Australian talent. Businesses should work on two fronts to develop talent and meet foreseeable future needs for skills.

Firstly, they should develop and support their own workforces to ensure they have necessary skills and experience. This includes their capability to respond to change. It may be unavoidable to source international talent in some cases, but there are significant advantages to sourcing talent onshore.

This does not necessarily need to involve direct contributions to training. In some instances, the most valuable support a business could provide would be the time and understanding for individuals to pursue their own self development.

Secondly, industries should collectively identify and communicate the skills, values and behaviours they seek from people completing any education and training, to ensure Australian education institutions prepare learners for the future of work.

Thirdly, organisations should ensure they have the capability to effectively manage change.


Download the fact sheet:

The roles and responsibilities of business