Retailers want penalty rates capped and online retailers to be covered by industry award in Fair Work review

Retailers are calling for penalty rates to be halved to just 50%, more flexibility for part-time workers, and online retailers to be included under the general retail award, as part of a Fair Work Australia review.

The workplace regulator is accepting submissions for the next five weeks as part of the first stage of the review process. The retail and hospitality industries will be analysed first.

Retailers have been calling for changes to the award for some time, saying bricks and mortar are failing to compete in an industry that now demands 24-hour service, and is working against online retailers based overseas.

Australian Retailers Association executive chairman Russell Zimmerman told SmartCompany this morning there are four key points the ARA wants changed – penalty rates, part-time flexibility, online retailing and training sessions.

The push comes as unions are calling for penalty rates to remain in place, while they also want another public holiday when Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or New Year’s Day falls on a weekend. Unions are also calling for an extra holiday to be given for Easter Sunday.

But Zimmerman is adamant: “We’ll continue to work with the government and make sure our voice is heard.”

Here are the four key points retailers want to have addressed in the review process.

Lower penalty rate caps

Retailers want penalty rates capped at just 50% of the base rate. Currently, they’re set at 100% of the base rate, meaning employers could be paying as much as $40 per hour on Sundays and public holidays for a typical store worker.

“We’d like to see that capped at 50%,” he says, referring to both Saturday and Sunday weekend rates.

Retailers say with seven-day trading becoming more common, the idea of the traditional weekend is now outdated. As a result, many want penalty rates to be applied only if workers exceed their originally rostered hours.

Part-time flexibility

With unions pushing for more part-time workers rather than casuals, Zimmerman says employers should in return be given more flexibility.

“One of the problems we see in the industry is that if you have part-timers, you’re having to pay penalty rates if they exceed their rostered hours.”

“If there’s going to be a push here, we’d just like to see more flexibility.”

Online retailers to come under award

Zimmerman also wants online retailers to come under the award. While many online retail employees would work in salaried positions in offices, he says people working in warehouses will be on rostered work and should come under the award so the industry can maintain competitiveness.

“We’d like to see online retailers included under the award, and we think it’s an important step.”

“If you extend the storefront situation from the storeman to the warehouse, in retail you have people working in store rooms as well, just under different sections of the same award.”

Shorter training shifts

Currently, the ARA says retailers can only bring employees in for training for shifts of three hours. They want that reduced to 90 minutes.

“We think companies should be allowed to train in shorter shifts.”

“What we’ve seen is that, because it’s a three hour minimum except for school students, you have a lot of businesses that just won’t train anymore because the shift is too long and they can’t afford it.”

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