Australia Retailers Association pushes Fair Work Australia for “commonsense” deal for student workers

The Australian Retailers Association will appear before Fair Work Australia today to argue that retailers should be allowed to employ students for two-hour after-school shifts, rather than the three-hour minimum shift prescribed under the new retail award.

The ARA says a survey of members show over 55% of retailers employ school students for short shifts, typically between 3pm and close of business at around 5-5.30pm.

More worryingly, 38% of retailers said they would stop employing students to work after school under the new award, and 17% said they would stop employing students altogether as a result of the three-hour minimum shift rule for casual workers.

“At the moment retailers are being forced to turn students away because they can’t find the time to work the minimum of three hours required under the new General Retail Award,” the ARA deputy executive director Jennifer Cromarty said in a statement released before today’s hearing.

“It is only logical that minimum hours for casual workers should be reduced to a nationally-consistent two-hour shift.”

The new three-hour minimum shift rule came into place in January and rose to prominence after a employer in rural Victoria sacked six students previously employed in after-school roles.

Under the previous Victorian award, two-hour shifts were permissible.

Unions will fight against the retailers’ push, saying the three-hour minimum is designed to protect the rights of casual workers.

“It is designed to protect people such as working mothers, who have costs including travel and childcare to think of,” ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence told the Herald-Sun.

“So-called evidence from employer lobby groups that thousands of young workers’ jobs are at risk from the new award is just irresponsible scare-mongering.”

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