By Claire Reilly
The Australian Retailers Association has called for a reduction of Sunday penalty rates for retail staff as well as a change of the definition of the “general retail industry” by Fair Work Australia, in order to reflect the changing nature of Australian retail.
According to ARA executive director, Russell Zimmerman, an increase in online shopping and changing consumer behaviours are leading to a broader shift in the way retailers operate, with a move towards a "24 hour, seven day a week shopping economy".
The comments come as Fair Work Australia (FWA) and the Australian Federal Government conduct a review of the Fair Work Act and the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA), both of which govern the working conditions of Australian retail staff.
“The Australian retail sector is operating in a low trade environment with increased competition from its overseas counterparts, as well as trying to meet consumer demand for a 24/7 multichannel shopping experience,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman also cited an internal ARA that he said proved retailers were facing changed conditions in their stores, and the GRIA needed to be adjusted to suit the new retail climate.
“Thursday to Sunday were the busiest days of a seven day retail trading week for over 60 percent of retailers, a clear indication that retail trading conditions and the 24 hour, seven day a week shopping economy needed to be at the forefront of FWA’s review of the GRIA,” he said.
“Given the retail sector is increasingly incorporating online and multichannel operations as part of normal trading, the ARA is calling for a variation to the definition of ‘general retail industry’ to include online retailing of goods and services, ensuring those employed in online retailing are covered under the Award.
“Sunday penalty rates as they currently stand act as a disincentive for businesses to employ staff to keep up with consumer demand to be open seven days a week. The ARA believes a reduction in the Sunday penalty rate from 100 percent to 50 percent would take into account challenges facing the industry to trade seven days a week while ensuring employees have access to jobs and flexible hours.
“The ARA is also calling for the removal of unnecessary administration involved in changing the hours of a part time worker by agreement, which impedes both part timers’ access to flexible hours and employers’ ability to ensure hours worked are productive.
“The objective of the retail award is to set a minimum safety net for both employers and employees. However, retailers are increasingly concerned this minimum safety net is too high, leading to substantial labour cost pressures which are being exacerbated by prevailing trading conditions and increased international competition,” Zimmerman said.