Penalty rates cut over staggered transition period

Russell Zimmerman, ARA

Cuts to penalty rates in the Retail Award will be phased in over four years, however retail lobbyists are unhappy about the decision.

Australia’s national retailing group has complained about the “excessive length of the transitional arrangements” for penalty rate reductions, as handed down by the Fair Work Commission yesterday.

The FWC announced that the reduction of Sunday penalty rates would be phased in gradually, with employees under the Retail Award to see their Sunday penalty rates cut from 200% to 195% on 1 July 2017, to 180% in 2018, to 165% in 2019, and finally to 150% in 2020.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said retailers expected to be able to “ramp up” employment as a result of the change to lower penalty rates on Sundays, but would be hindered by the prospect that further reviews would be undertaken at the request of unions such as the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA).

Mr Zimmerman said the ARA will challenge any attempt by the SDA, United Voice or the ACTU to defer the implementation of the reduced penalty rates decision, which would affect the retail, fast food, pharmacy and hospitality awards.

“Retailers are already operating in a tough environment, and the ARA will be working with its members and legal providers to strongly defend the decision to ensure the implementation of Public Holiday rates from 1 July 2017,” Mr Zimmerman said.

The Fair Work Commission rejected the proposition made by the SDA that the penalty rates decision should be “set aside” or “not implemented”, stating that the matter had already been considered and balanced.

The Full Bench also said there was a need for transitional arrangements to mitigate hardship, and that these were within the power of the commission.

Conversely, the FWC said that reductions to the public holiday penalty would take place without further transitional arrangements on 1 July 2017, which will see the Retail Award public holiday penalty reduced from 250% to 225%.

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