industrial relations

Fast-food employers can now pay time in lieu for public holiday workers, Fair Work Commission rules

Patrick Stafford /

Retailers have rejoiced over a new Fair Work decision which allows employers to pay their staff with time in lieu for working on a public holiday.

The decision reflects the growing call among employers for flexible working options – the election of a Coalition government has provided businesses with hope that more flexible options will be introduced during the next few years.

The Fair Work Commission decided yesterday to allow businesses in the fast food, hospitality and beauty industries to be awarded time in lieu for working on public holidays.

The decision came on behalf of a case brought by the National Retailers Association and the Hair and Beauty Industry Association. The application was opposed by unions including the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee’s Union.

The Commission ruled yesterday employers can pay time in lieu, as long as the employee grants consent and wages are still paid out with extra time-and-a-half. The time in lieu must be taken four weeks after the public holiday occurs, or it can be paid out.

Deputy president Greg Smith said the clause is appropriate to insert in the relevant awards.

In doing so, he said: “The safety net for an employee does not alter unless there is agreement to do so by substituting another form of compensation.

“To access the alternative there must be mutual consent and employees cannot be pressured into agreeing as that would not constitute genuine consent.”

Both the National Retail Association and Restaurant and Catering Australia were contacted this morning but neither was available prior to publication.

However, NRA chief executive Trevor Evans told The Australian the decision is welcome.

“We’re very proud of the win and we think it’s a very sensible decision that should help both businesses and workers work together on public holidays to better serve the needs of their customers,” he said.

Evans also emphasised the arrangement can only happen if there is mutual consent.

“Employees cannot be pressured into agreeing as that would not constitute genuine consent.”

While the decision has been made independent of the government, business owners are hopeful similar decisions will be made during the Coalition’s rule.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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