Industry representative body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), has backed the Federal Government’s move to evaluate the current Sunday penalty rates system for retail and hospitality.
This move follows recent comments made by prime minister, Malcom Turnbull, and treasurer, Scott Morrison,confirming the Government will investigate penalty rates in line with the seven-day consumer economy, which sees Australians hitting the shops on Sundays as a normal course of lifestyle in 2015.
The ARA said, in a statement, that it applauds this move as it hopes the move will bring Sunday payment rates to more sustainable levels for Australian retail businesses, which will in turn result in the ability of these businesses to employ more staff for longer hours.
ARA executive director, Russell Zimmerman, said the ARA believes that although Sunday penalty rates must be lowered, they should not be abolished. The Government also supports the retention of penalty rates, at a more sustainable level, in order to create further jobs and increase worker pay.
Zimmerman claimed it is important penalty rates are not taken away from retail employees working on Sunday, but, instead, a compromise is put in place.
“For many Australians, Sunday has become a normal shopping day, making above the norm penalty rates unnecessary. The retail industry is seeking a moderate reduction, not an abolition. We propose a reduction in Sunday penalties from double time (100 per cent) to time and half (50 per cent),” he said.
According to Zimmerman, a reduction in Sunday penalty rates will allow retail employers to be able to provide more labour hours to retail employees who would like to work on Sundays.
“Independent research commissioned by the retail industry demonstrates retail employees are prepared to work on Sundays for a lower penalty rate, while analysis by the Shopping Centre Council of Australia shows that between 2009 and 2014, Sundays experienced the highest growth in customer foot traffic to shopping centres.”
An industry survey of 690 retail businesses in August indicated that just under 70 per cent of stores trade for fewer hours on Sundays than on Saturdays, and 50 per cent of those do so because of labour costs.
Additionally, 64 per cent of retail businesses would allocate more hours to employees on Sundays if the Sunday penalty was reduced to 50 per cent.
“Australian lifestyles are changing, and it is important to allow physical retailers the scope to be able to keep up with this change and compete effectively against new challenges, such as the 24/7 global marketplace and online.
“We look forward to collaborating with the Government to ensure the needs of both retail businesses and their employees are met by any changes that may occur to the payment of penalty rates,” he added.