Penalty rates decision looms

Penalty rates decision

The President of the Fair Work Commission has told the AFR Retail Summit, sponsored by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), that the Commission is committed to meeting its timeliness benchmarks for the release of the Penalty Rates Decision.

The decision is seen as a key issue my major stakeholders in the small-business sector, with Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA), saying recently that the current penalty rates disproportionately penalize small businesses when compared to the impact they have on the “top end of town”.

COSBOA have highlighted cases where big corporations have come together with powerful unions to make arrangements that have enabled them to avoid paying the same penalty rates as small-business owners to staff working over the weekend. Like many with an interest in the sustainability of small business, they hope the imminent decision on penalty rates will close such loopholes.

President Ross said that there was one matter still to be dealt with prior to the Full Bench considering its Decision, and that matter would be completed by 28 October 2016.

The benchmarks set for the Commission require the Full Bench to release the Penalty Rates Decision by 20 January 2017.

The President also told delegates at the Retail Summit he believed “it should be possible to develop a schedule to the award which provides that employees are paid a higher, loaded hourly rate of pay in lieu of an entitlement to penalty rates”.

The ARA believes such a penalty rates regime, provided it does not come with an excessive administrative burden, would be of great benefit to small businesses in particular, as it would substantially simplify their payroll processes.

Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of the ARA, said the ARA brought the industry together to present a case for change.

“We are excited to be drawing closer to what we are confident will be the right outcome,” Mr Zimmerman said.