Retail body calls for penalty rates to be halved in Fair Work review

Retailers are calling for penalty rates to be halved, as part of a Fair Work Australia review, with a leading industry group insisting retailers simply can’t afford to pay staff more.


It’s been revealed the retail and hospitality industries will be the first to have penalty and public holiday rates analysed under Fair Work Australia’s review of all modern awards.


The workplace regulator is accepting submissions for the next five weeks as part of the first stage of the review process. The first stage of the review is due to finish by September 30.


According to FWA commissioner Peter Hampton, there are “various elements of 22 different applications concerning six modern awards that are presently before this full bench”.


Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, told SmartCompany there are four key points the ARA wants changed.


They are penalty rates, part-time flexibility, online retailing and training sessions. However, unions want penalty rates to remain as they are.


The unions also want an additional public holiday whenever Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day falls on a weekend, and to have Easter Sunday considered as a public holiday.


Retailers oppose the scheduled increase in penalty rates to 100% of the base rate, which would push average casual pay to $41 on Sundays and public holidays.


“We’d like to see that capped at 50%,” Zimmerman said, referring to both Saturday and Sunday weekend rates.


With seven-day trading becoming increasingly common, retailers claim the idea of the traditional weekend is now outdated.


As a result, many want penalty rates to be applied only if workers exceed their originally rostered hours.


Zimmerman said employers should also be given more flexibility with regard to part-time workers.


“One of the problems we see in the industry is that if you have part-timers, you’re having to pay penalty rates if they exceed their rostered hours… We’d just like to see more flexibility,” he said.


Zimmerman also wants online retailers to come under the award. He said people working in warehouses should come under the award so the industry can maintain competitiveness.


“We’d like to see online retailers included under the award,” Zimmerman said.


“If you extend the storefront situation from the storeman to the warehouse, in retail you have people working in storerooms as well, just under different sections of the same award.”


Zimmerman also pointed out that retailers can only bring employees in for training for shifts of three hours. The ARA wants that reduced to 90 minutes.


“Because it’s a three-hour minimum, except for school students, you have a lot of businesses that just won’t train anymore because the shift is too long and they can’t afford it,” he said.


“We think companies should be allowed to train in shorter shifts.”


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