Changes to Sunday and Public Holiday Penalty Rates

On Thursday 23 February, 2017 the Fairwork Commission issued it’s long awaited findings on proposed cuts to Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates and if you’re a worker in retail, pharmacies, hospitality or fast food you may be disappointed to learn that your Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates are being cut.

The cuts have outraged many students and young employees who comprise most of the casual workforce in those industries, with Union groups suggesting that some workers could stand to lose up to $6,000.00 a year in income.

It’s taken the commission three years to arrive at this ruling and President of the Fairwork Commission, Ian Ross, States that ‘a reduction in penalty rates is likely to lead to increased trading hours and an increase in the level and range of services offered on Sundays and Public Holidays and an increase in overall hours worked”.

So what exactly are the cuts?.  In hospitality, Sunday rates for full-time and part-time staff will be cut from 175% to 150%.  Penalty rates for casuals remain unchanged at 175%.

In fast food, level 1 employees face a cut from the former penalty rate of 150% to 125%.  For casual staff, rates will fall from 175% to 150%.

Retail workers however, will suffer the biggest pay reduction.  Full-time and part-time retail workers will have Sunday rates reduced from 200% to 150%, while casuals will be reduced from 200% to 175%.

For pharmacy workers, Sunday rates for work between 7am and 9pm will be reduced from 200% to 150% for full-time and part-time employees, while casuals will be reduced from 200% to 175%.

Public Holiday rates have also been cut from 250% to 225% for full-time and part-time in hospitality, restaurant, retail, fast-food, and pharmacy workers.  Casuals in those industries, except for restaurants, will have their public holiday rates cut from 275% to 250%.

Some early and late-night loadings for restaurant and fast-food workers have also been adjusted.  Changes to public holiday penalty rates will take effect on 1 July 2017, and the variation s of the early and late-night work loadings will take effect in late March 2017.

Some critics of the decision have commented that the Commission’s findings couldn’t have come at a worse time for low-income earners.  In the December quarter, private sector wages grew only 0.4% while public sector wages did little better, growing 0.6% for the quarter.  As such, annual wages growth has now been flat or falling since June 2014.

Business groups in support of the finding said the Commission must balance the interests of employed people with those seeking work, as well as business operators and consumers.  They argued that adjusting penalty rates would allow small businesses to offer more work and better meet the needs of customers.

The Labor party has indicated that it intends to challenge the Commission’s findings or to seek a legislative remedy for the decision regarding penalty rates.

If you have concerns regarding your rights as an employee, call Peter Moore on (02) 4324 7699 for a confidential chat.