“Out of touch”: Retail associations slam Fair Work Commission’s decision to raise pay for junior workers

Retail Award

Source: Unsplash/Korie Cull.

Retail businesses will need to pay some junior staff a higher wage from February 2021, following a Fair Work Commission decision on Tuesday.

The commission decided that junior retail workers, under 21 years of age, on level four or above of the Retail Award, will be paid the same as the adult rate.

In its decision, the commission rejected the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association’s request to change the pay of all junior workers on level one or higher of the Retail Award to the higher, adult rate.

Evidence from a range of employers in the retail industry was received by the commission as well as statements from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association and the New South Wales Business Chamber.

The commission acknowledged that many retail workers receive low wages and that industry awards “provide a fair and relevant minimum safety net of terms and conditions”.

The commission stated that the changes would support the “uniformity and consistency” of minimum wages in modern awards.

However, industry associations have slammed the commission’s decision saying it will raise the cost of junior employment at a time that many retailers are “fighting for survival”.

“We are in the first recession for almost three decades and it’s disappointing to see the Fair Work Commission continue to elevate the costs of employing staff,” Australian Retailers Association chief Paul Zahra said.

“This, unfortunately, demonstrates the FWC are out of touch with the prevailing economic conditions facing retailers.”

The National Retail Association Deputy CEO Lindsay Carroll said the decision could set a precedent and pose a serious threat to teenagers working in similar industries, such as fast food.

“As a time when the Federal Government is stepping on the economic accelerator as hard as it can to get young people into jobs, it is baffling that the Fair Work Commission is pulling on the handbrake,” Carroll said.

Under the current award, a 20-year-old with less than half a year of experience earns $776.25 a week, whereas an adult earns $862.50.

The changes to junior employee rates will come into effect February 1 2021.

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