The hospitality industry is once again calling for a massive restructure of the current penalty rate system, saying more businesses will be forced to close on weekends if nothing is done.
The call comes as Fair Work is set to conduct hearings this week about possible changes to the current hospitality awards, which provide 125% of pay for working on Saturdays and 175% for working on Sundays.
John Hart, chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, says 70% of the organisation’s 7,600 members have now closed their doors on a day of the week they were open on last year.
“I know what the majority of Australians want to do on the weekend, and I know what I want to do, and that’s go and eat out.”
“But the reality is if we want to keep the weekend as a special time then we have to have a change in penalty rates, because if the current regime continues every restaurant in Australia will be shut on Sunday.”
Hart will be joined by other groups, including the New South Wales Business Chamber. Their argument hinges on a new system of calculating penalty rates based on the number of days worked in a week, rather than just on weekends.
For instance, if employees work six days, they would be paid an extra 25% on the sixth day, and then 50% for a seventh and other consecutive days.
The hospitality union United Voice is fighting against the proposal, citing a Galaxy poll that found 97% of respondents said weekends were still an important time for families and that 87% said weekend workers should get higher pay rates.
But Hart says the evidence is undeniable – more businesses are reducing hours and many are closing down.
“I really think it’s time for a rethink. Penalty rates were introduced to compensate people working on weekends, and that was around the concept of working Monday to Friday. But that has changed.”
In fact, Hart says far from being disappointed over lower rates of pay, Hart says casual employees will welcome the opportunity for businesses to stay alive.
“They know they’re getting a fair rate for working a weekend, instead of businesses having to shut and getting their hours cut.”
“They want to work on a Sunday, because for many people that’s when they can work because of university commitments and so on. They’d rather get some work, than none.”