Penalty Rates Decision: Sunday and Public Holiday Penalty Rates to be cut

Team Tanda

23 February 2017    |   

Fair Work Penalty Rates Decision Source: The Fair Work Commission The Fair Work Commission has today announced that Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates are to be cut across Hospitality, Retail, and Fast Food Awards, while Saturday penalty rates are to remain the same. Changes to Sunday Penalty Rates Sunday penalty rates for full time and part time hospitality workers will be reduced from 175% to 150%, rates for casuals will remain the same at 175%. Level 1 Employees under the Fast Food Award will see a reduction in Sunday penalty rates from 150% to 125% for full-time and part-time employees. Casuals will have a reduction from 175% to 150%. No changes will be made to Sunday penalty rates for Level 2 and Level 3 Employees under the Award. Full time and part-time retail workers will have Sunday penalty rates reduced from 200% to 150%. Casual Sunday rates for retail will also be reduced from 200% to 175%. Changes to Public Holiday Penalty Rates Public holiday rates for full-time workers in hospitality will be reduced from 250% to 225%, with no change for casual Public Holiday penalty rates. Changes to Public Holiday rates will come into effect July 1, 2017. However, The Commission has stated that the immediate implementation of updated Sunday penalty rates would create undue financial distress for Sunday workers. As such transitional arrangements for Sunday penalty rate changes will be made in the coming months. The decision was handed down after more than eight months of deliberation, and comes after The Productivity Commission recommended bringing Sunday penalty rates into line with Saturday rates in 2015. This is the biggest Industrial Relations decision The Fair Work Commission has made in recent years. It is hoped that reducing penalty rates will bring  about more ‘positive employment effects’ for businesses, and will “lead to increased trading hours, an increase in the level and range of services offered on Sundays and Public Holidays and an increase in overall hours worked.” With the outcome of the decision expected to come into play later this year, it is crucial that business owners have the correct tools and processes in place to update changes to wage rates correctly, and better manage their labour costs to capitalise on the penalty rate reductions.

Fair Work Penalty Rates Decision

Source: The Fair Work Commission

The Fair Work Commission has today announced that Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates are to be cut across Hospitality, Retail, and Fast Food Awards, while Saturday penalty rates are to remain the same.

Changes to Sunday Penalty Rates

Sunday penalty rates for full time and part time hospitality workers will be reduced from 175% to 150%, rates for casuals will remain the same at 175%.

Level 1 Employees under the Fast Food Award will see a reduction in Sunday penalty rates from 150% to 125% for full-time and part-time employees. Casuals will have a reduction from 175% to 150%. No changes will be made to Sunday penalty rates for Level 2 and Level 3 Employees under the Award.

Full time and part-time retail workers will have Sunday penalty rates reduced from 200% to 150%. Casual Sunday rates for retail will also be reduced from 200% to 175%.

Changes to Public Holiday Penalty Rates

Public holiday rates for full-time workers in hospitality will be reduced from 250% to 225%, with no change for casual Public Holiday penalty rates.

Changes to Public Holiday rates will come into effect July 1, 2017. However, The Commission has stated that the immediate implementation of updated Sunday penalty rates would create undue financial distress for Sunday workers. As such transitional arrangements for Sunday penalty rate changes will be made in the coming months.

The decision was handed down after more than eight months of deliberation, and comes after The Productivity Commission recommended bringing Sunday penalty rates into line with Saturday rates in 2015.

This is the biggest Industrial Relations decision The Fair Work Commission has made in recent years. It is hoped that reducing penalty rates will bring  about more ‘positive employment effects’ for businesses, and will “lead to increased trading hours, an increase in the level and range of services offered on Sundays and Public Holidays and an increase in overall hours worked.”

With the outcome of the decision expected to come into play later this year, it is crucial that business owners have the correct tools and processes in place to update changes to wage rates correctly, and better manage their labour costs to capitalise on the penalty rate reductions.

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Sunday Penalty Rates: What’s really happening?

The national debate on penalty rates is quickly shaping up to become a defining issue of the Turnbull government and the next Federal election. The debate on penalty rates cuts straight to the bone of modern political disagreement and draws a line straight down one of the most fundamental differentiators of right wing vs. left wing economics. One side of the debate (the left) believes that the Government should regulate labour markets to ensure that the most vulnerable workers in our society are protected against greedy employers, and this will lead to a long term more equitable society. The other side of the debate (the right) believes the best path is to trust the power of the market to set labour rates, the argument is that the hardest workers will naturally attract the highest pay rates and encourage the labour force as a whole to be more productive. At a more practical level, the debate in Australia is concentrated on what to do about Sunday penalty rates which are paid at double time in some industries and whether to reduce those rates to be the same as Saturday rates. There are many institutional, practical and political factors at play which we will try to summarise in this article. Arguments for reducing Sunday penalty rates The argument goes that a reduction in cost of employment on Sundays will simultaneously lift productivity and improve unemployment rates in Australia. Many businesses remain closed on Sunday, because opening is unprofitable. Advocates of the rate cut argue that although some employees would see less money in their take-home pay packet, the overall result will be lower unemployment; not only because more business will trade on Sunday, but because many businesses will choose to increase their service levels (by employing more people) when margins aren’t quite so slim. Arguments against reducing Sunday penalty rates This side of the debate worries that reducing penalty rates will be hurting those in society who need the money the most and should be rewarded at higher rates due to working more ‘unsociable’ hours. Those against penalty rate cuts are generally very sceptical that business owners will create more jobs through the pay rate cuts, and see the proposed cut as a transfer of money from employee’s back-pockets into business owners’ wallets. What about the politics? Not too long ago, specific pay rates for industries were regulated at a State, rather than a Federal level. The move to shift powers of overall rate-setting to the confines of Canberra means that this debate is now being played out on the national stage. The problem for Turnbull and the Coalition is their track-record on labour market reform. As soon as the debate shifts to penalty rates, Turnbull runs the risk of resurfacing some of the toxic politics from the WorkChoices legislation. The problem for the Labour party and particularly Shorten, is how much this fight relies on support from the Union movement. As the political mudslinging begins, this could prove to be particularly bad timing for Shorten following the damning finding of the Royal Commission into Unions. All of this is mixed in with an unpredictable cross-bench, who Turnbull will need to win the support of to push through any change. There is far more at play for both sides than the practical changes to paychecks on Sunday. For both sides this argument flares deeply held ideological principles and is seen as a skirmish on the much larger war on our nation’s attitude towards labour laws, the free-market and the role of government. Get ready for the s**tfight.   At Tanda, our Award Interpretation software helps businesses ensure they are paying their staff correct penalty rates at different times throughout the week.

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Public Service Announcement: Fair Work Crackdown

The recent spate of Fair Work crackdowns has increased concern for small business owners, as the severity and prevalence of non-compliance and underpayment continues to increase. Fair Work recently imposed a $143,000 penalty against a Brisbane Business Owner and his former internal Payroll and Account Manager, after it was uncovered that they had deliberately underpaid staff at a Japanese food outlet. While business owners have always been liable for such breaches, it is the first case of a payroll manager being penalised under accessorial liability. Accessorial liability has been one of the preferred tools wielded by Fair Work recently, as it focuses on looking past the principal company to further down the supply and managerial chain. The increase in the number of wage underpayments, has led the Federal Government to introduce the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017. The Bill intends to increase the maximum penalties for those found breaching the Fair Work Act. It will seek to hold franchisors and holding companies responsible for actions of their franchisees and subsidiaries, if they are found to be in breach of the Fair Work Act. If passed, this legislation will see the maximum penalties for a company increase from $54,000 to $540,000, and maximum penalties for an individual increase from $10,800 to $108,000. Fines will be imposed for each offence, and could potentially see businesses facing over $1 million in penalties, for breaching the Fair Work Act. Fair Work has strict compliance guidelines and regulations regarding pay rates, payslip laws and staff leave entitlements. Business owners therefore need to be proactive in their approach to compliance, to ensure that they are legally meeting their compliance requirements. Businesses looking to gain greater compliance comfort and oversight into their business should implement workforce management software solutions for peace of mind and security to managing and paying staff. These solutions not only automate Award and EA calculations (where most of the payroll mistakes occur), but also provides oversight into the entire business, including pay rates, staff attendance and wage costs. For more information regarding the Fair Work Act and regulations please visit the Fair Work site.

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What you need to know about the Casual Conversion Clause

On 1 October 2018, the Fair Work Commission announced that a new casual conversion clause will be included in 80+ modern awards across Australia. What does it mean? Casual conversion is a right given to regular casual staff to request for full-time or part-time employment status, given certain prerequisites. In the awards, a ‘regular casual employee’ is: “A casual employee who has, in the preceding period of 12 months, worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis which, without significant adjustment, the employee could continue to perform as a full-time employee or part-time employee under the provisions of this award.” Businesses whose awards fall under mandate are required to advise their casual employees of this clause. This does not require employers to offer conversion to their eligible employees; rather, the clause entitles all eligible employees the right to request for conversion. Who can apply? The clause allows casual workers to apply for conversion if: They have  been working for the business for twelve (12) months; and Their work pattern is an ongoing number of hours over the past year, which can be continued without adjustment upon conversion to full-time or part-time. Employers must provide casual employees with a copy of the casual conversion clause within their first year of initial engagement with the business. Casual employees who are eligible to apply should request their employers in writing. Can applications be rejected? Yes, applications can be rejected. Reasonable grounds include: A significant adjustment of work hours for the employee in order to accommodate their full-time or part-time employment status; The employee worked for short periods and/or irregular shifts or hours; and The position of the casual employee will cease to exist in the foreseeable future. Rejection of applications can be done, given that both employee and employer have discussed the decision. Should employers not convert a casual employee, a written refusal must be provided, indicating the reasonable grounds of rejection. Read more: What is the Contingent Workforce and how can you leverage it in your business? What awards are covered? The introduction of the clause covers 80+ modern awards, including: Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010; Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 2010; Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010; Building & Construction General On-site Award 2010; Concrete Products Award 2010; Electrical, Electronic & Communications Contracting Award 2010; Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award 2010; Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010; Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 2010; and Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award 2010 To check if your business is included, click here. What should your business do next? It’s important to keep in mind that Fair Work’s decision does not require businesses to convert casual employees in all cases where a casual employee makes a request for conversion to their employer.  For this reason, it’s important to understand the criteria for casual conversion and understand what your obligations are when employees meet these requirements. If you or your business falls under the new clause, here are the steps you can take to stay compliant: Check your modern award or enterprise agreement. Awards with existing clauses for casual conversion may have different requirements. Check your award for the exact rules in your industry. Create a casual conversion letter. You can also download a copy here. Notify your employees. Make sure you give your casual staff (employed as of 1 October 2018) a copy of the final letter. Record the outcome of the casual conversion offer. Whether they accept or reject the offer, keep copies of their written responses for future reference. If you are unsure how the casual conversion clause affects your business, call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fairwork.gov.au To make sure you stay updated with the latest news on awards, employment, and compliance, subscribe to our newsletter today.

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Public Service Announcement: Fair Work Crackdown

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