Changes in Shopping Behaviour Trigger Retail Penalty Rate Reform

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has come out in support of the Government’s intentions to evaluate the current Sunday penalty rates system for retail and hospitality, following comments by Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison this 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”, which sees Australians hitting the shops on Sundays as a normal course of lifestyle in 2015.

The ARA 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.

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 place more money in worker’s pockets.

Russell Zimmerman, ARA Executive Director, says that 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,” said Mr Zimmerman.

“The retail industry is seeking a moderate reduction, not an abolition. We propose a reduction in Sunday penalties from double time (100 percent) to time and half (50 percent),” he said.

“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 percent of stores trade for fewer hours on Sundays than on Saturdays, and 50 percent of those do so because of labour costs.

Additionally, 64 percent of retail businesses would allocate more hours to employees on Sundays if the Sunday penalty was reduced to 50 percent (time and a half) – a finding backed up by two other independent reports.

“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,” 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.”