Should penalty rates be reduced?


NO: Penalty rates are vital for two reasons. First, they recognise the impact that unsociable hours on weekends and late at night have on workers and their families. Second, they are an important part of take-home pay and are relied on by workers for everyday essentials, such as bills, rent and groceries.

Workers in industries being singled out for cuts, such as hospitality and retail, are among the lowest paid in the economy. For them, penalty rates aren't extra pay - they help provide the basic income their families need just to get by.

There have been some instances where a rise in base pay has been negotiated in agreements that included a decrease in penalty rates. But an attempt to do so on an economy-wide scale would not only be almost impossible to implement, it would also ignore the significant negative impact of working outside the usual Monday to Friday, nine to five. Australians value their weekends and should be fairly recognised for giving them up to work. Ged Kearney, Australian Council of Trade Unions


YES: The ARA and a group of retailers are engaged in a review of the general retail industry award 2010 (GRIA) with the view to reducing the costs for retailers who trade on Sundays. Our position is based on the changing lifestyles of Australians who have indicated they consider Sundays to be a normal shopping day. Analysis by the Shopping Centre Council shows that between 2009 and 2014, Sundays had the highest growth in customer foot traffic to shopping centres.

The ARA is proposing a reduction in Sunday penalties from double time to time-and-a-half. While we would like to see penalty rates reduced, we do not want to see them removed completely. Instead, we're seeking a compromise that allows for more sustainable rates so retailers can afford to provide more labour hours to people who would like to work on Sundays. Lifestyles are changing, and it's important to allow physical retailers the scope to keep up with this change and compete against new challenges. Russell Zimmerman, Australian Retailers Association


Karen Haynes
November 23, 2015 10.54am

The Australian Retailers Association justify reducing Sunday rates with the revelation that shoppers enjoy shopping on Sunday. That makes sense. They're not working. What a relaxing day to do some shopping! Yet we cannot visit their office on a Sunday, that would be unreasonable. Sunday penalty rates are appropriate compensation for working on what is still a day of rest and leisure for many.

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