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.