Shopping behaviour changes trigger penalty rate reform

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has come out in support of the Government’s intention to evaluate the Sunday penalty rate system for retail and hospitality, following comments by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison last week.

Mr Turnbull has gone on the record to confirm that the Government will investigate penalty rates in line with the “seven-day consumer economy” in which Australians shop on Sundays as a normal course of lifestyle in 2015.

The ARA says it applauds this move, which it hopes 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 says it is important that penalty rates are not taken away from retail employees working on Sunday, but, instead, that a compromise is put in place.

“For many Australians, Sunday has become a normal shopping day, making above-the-norm penalty rates unnecessary,” he said.

“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 a half (50 per cent).”

Independent research commissioned by the retail industry suggests retail employees are prepared to work on Sundays for a lower penalty rate, while analysis from the Shopping Centre Council of Australia shows that, between 2009 and 2014, the strongest growth in customer foot traffic to shopping centres was on Sundays.

“Australian lifestyles are changing and it’s 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,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“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.”

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