Concerns over delay in Fair Work Commission decision on Sunday penalty rates

Australian businesses may be in for a longer wait to find out if the Fair Work Commission will seek to alter Sunday penalty rates.

The Commission yesterday gave the Australian Industry Group more time to provide details about one of its earlier submissions to the Commission’s review of penalty rates for hospitality and retail awards.

Employers had been expecting the Commission to hand down its decision this month, having commenced the review in 2015, however The Australian reports a decision could now be delayed until at least December.

The Ai Group had previously submitted findings of a survey of fast-food workers about their preferences for weekend work and had been asked to indicate the classification of the workers referred to in the survey. This information was not available and so the survey results were broken down according to the employment status and age of the workers. In a statement published on the Commission’s website yesterday, the group was asked to explain how preferences for work on a Saturday or Sunday vary according to the age and employment status of the workers surveyed.

The survey found employees were most likely to want to work on Saturdays instead of Sundays because they wanted to spend time with their family. Employees under the age of 15 cited sporting commitments as a factor in them wanting to work on Sundays, while those in the 16-24 age bracket said they preferred to work on Sundays so they could spend Saturdays with friends.

The next hearing for the case is now scheduled to be held in Melbourne on September 28.

Stephen Smith, head of national workplace relations policy for the Ai Group, told SmartCompany the Ai Group “remains hopeful that the Full Bench [of the Fair Work Commission] will decide that the evidence supports the alignment of Sunday penalty rates with existing Saturday rates for fast food workers”.

“A large proportion of the employees in the fast food industry are young people with study commitments, and they are not available to work during normal business hours,” he says.

“Many employees in the industry prefer to work on weekends, including Sundays.”

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany the length of time it is taking for a decision to be made shows the Australian workplace system is “far too complicated”.

“No system should be that complicated,” Strong says.

Employer groups are pushing for Sunday penalty rates in the hospitality and retail sectors to be brought into line with Saturday rates. Strong argues a practical approach is needed when it comes to Sunday penalty rates, which he says prevent some small businesses from trading.

The Productivity Commission has previously recommended Sunday penalty rates in the hospitality, entertainment, retailing and restaurant and café industries be “aligned with those on Saturday”.

“It’s pretty black and white,” he says.

“There are a bunch of people who can’t open their business because they have to pay higher rates [on Sundays].”

He also argues it is unfair on small business for some big companies to be allowed to avoid paying the higher rates because of the agreements they strike with unions.


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Michael Ratner
Michael Ratner
5 years ago

Why is it that no one can bite the bullet and make a decision … of course based on common sense and political influence. After all, one fact for sure is that not only the people making the decision but also our politicians wouldn’t have a clue..
Shuffle it around and then around and some more around until it evaporates.

Eloise, your article talks about the reasons and implications which appear to include family time, sport time, friends time ands also mentions the inability of certain people not able to work during the week for various reasons.

I can’t find a reason for time and a half and double time. Surely it’s more about supplementing ones income. Surely minimum wages are taking that into account.
A weekend worker earning$20 and hour standard pay or maybe the new minimum pay would allow weekend workers to earn around $400. Hell a lot better than $600 but not available to get a job because there is less opportunity.

By the way there is a solution which is certainly illegal and possibly not palatable …. pay weekend worked $20 an hour in their hands, nearly the equivalent of $30 an hour through the books, Of course this is happening and the turnover is not reflecting the true amount because small business is forced, yep forced to compromise.

I think they call it cash economy. Short change the GST, the tax department, workers comp and many other things.
Guess what, I might have just described the elephant in the room.

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