Sunday Penalty Rates: What’s really happening?

Jake Phillpot

4 January 2016    |   

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.

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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Easter Penalty Rates 2015 — What you need to know about paying staff

Easter is coming up soon, and that means two things! A new season of Game of Thrones to feast on, and – perhaps less excitingly – public holiday rates to pay staff. As a business owner, accountant, or bookkeeper, it’s important to be aware of how public holiday rates over Easter and ANZAC Day should be paid in your state. First, let’s see when the holidays will be in 2014. You might be surprised! If your business is open on any of these public holidays, you’ll need to pay staff the appropriate public holiday rates. You should check your award, which will tell you exactly what multiplier or penalties to apply, often under a Public Holidays section. A common multiplier is 2.5x. Some businesses pay staff salaries, or pay casually “above award”. Public holiday penalties still apply! If you have a contract, it should cover this – check with Fair Work if you are unsure. Staff who don’t work on a public holiday If you have full or part time staff who should have worked on any of the weekday public holidays – Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Easter Tuesday in specific cases – they are still entitled to pay, even if they do not work. Generally you’ll pay at base rate for the hours staff would have been entitled to. Of course, if staff do work on the day, you’ll pay at a higher rate as dictated by the award (see above). But keep in mind: this only applies if they usually work on that day. For example, a part timer in Queensland who generally works Tuesday to Thursday probably wouldn’t get paid the public holidays because there’s no public holiday on those weekdays. Check your award/agreement to be sure! If your award dictates how rostered days off work, you should check to see if staff with an RDO on a public holiday are still paid. In some states, some kinds of businesses are not permitted to open on public holidays due to trading regulations. If this applies, you will probably still be required to pay staff who would otherwise work on that weekday. Again, if you’re not sure, it’s best to ask. Staff who work on a day that isn’t a public holiday Keep in mind that the rest of the award doesn’t shut off just because it’s Easter. For example, if you are in Tasmania and pay Saturday rates, you’ll still need to pay these on Easter Saturday (which is not a public holiday for you). Tell me some more interesting facts about payroll around public holidays Did you know… If an employee takes sick leave around a public holiday (eg. Thursday April 24 to Monday April 28), they still get paid the public holiday if they were otherwise supposed to work that day (ie. full/part time) If an employee takes annual leave, public holidays during the leave period don’t count towards their annual leave balance Public holidays do not need to be paid for staff on unpaid leave Staff cannot be forced to work on a public holiday if they have reasonable grounds for doing so. Common reasons include: the amount of notice given, family responsibilities (especially over Easter), and whether one could reasonably expect the business to be open on a public holiday. Tanda’s employee time clocks automatically interpret industry awards – including public holidays – so you can be sure you paid staff right, without tedious manually data entry Where can I get help? Add the Fair Work Infoline to your speed dial, they are always happy to help. The number to call for any payroll queries is 131 394. What’s your favourite easter treat? We’re impartial to Lindt chocolate bunnies. Yum. Note: none of the above constitutes formal payroll advice. Always check with your accountant, bookkeeper, or Fair Work.

Awards & Rostering    |   

Different kinds of Award Interpreters

We often chat to people who have looked at a few different award interpretation tools on the market. Most are not really sure which award interpretation tool is right for their business.  In this post, we’re going to take a look at the different kinds of award interpreters out there to help you understand what is important when looking for a tool for you or your clients. Firstly, an Award Interpreter (read about Tanda’s Award Interpreter) is software that figures out how much staff should be getting paid based on their hours and times worked.  What award interpreter is right for you? There are four different kinds and the right one depends on how your staff get paid. Salary Costing Tools: Used to calculate payroll when all your staff are paid a fixed salary. Hourly Wage Calculators: Calculates when staff get paid a single hourly rate for all hours worked. Single Rate Calculators: Pays staff only single types of pay like weekday, Saturday and Sunday rates. However, it cannot handle any of the more common rate scenarios set out in Awards. Award Rule Engines: Does all of the above. In addition, they also calculate overtime, penalty rates, allowances, accruals and leave. “All my staff get paid a salary” If you only employ salaried staff, a Salary Costing Tool is perfect for you. This is common in white collar workforces like accounting firms. In this case, you enter each employee’s yearly salary, set rules about how leave accrues and the tool does the rest. This is simple because staff are paid the same thing most pay runs. Most payroll systems (including MYOB and Xero) already include such a tool. If this is you, you’re in luck – you will not need an additional system for award interpretation! “My staff get paid the same hourly rate for all hours worked” This might come up if you run a very small business with only a few staff. This is where nobody works on weekends, receives overtime or penalty rates. Generally, this means the business is only open for a few hours on days that it does open. If that’s you, you’re after an Hourly Wage Calculator. Warning: Be careful with this one. It’s easy to miss subtle wordings in Awards that require you to pay different rates at different times. Keep in mind that if any of your staff ever get more than one pay rate in a week, an hourly wage calculator won’t work as well anymore (even if it doesn’t regularly happen). Using an Hourly Wage Calculator, you enter the hourly rate for each employee. Each week you only enter the number of hours worked (you don’t worry about times). The tool multiplies the hourly rate by the number of hours to calculate total pay. Most payroll systems (including MYOB and Xero) already include such a tool, so if this is you, you’re also in luck – you won’t need an additional system for award interpretation! “I employ only one type of employee. They receive weekday and weekend rates only.” If you have staff that get paid hourly and receive different rates on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you might be able to use a Single Rate Calculator. However, be careful because this only works if you have a single employment type. An Employment Type refers to the way someone is employed. This includes full-time, part-time, casual or shiftworkers. If everyone you employ is the same employment type (e.g. everyone is Full Time) then this might work for you. When using a Single Rate Award Calculator, you enter the hourly rate that each employee gets during the week. You enter the multiplier for Saturday and Sunday shifts. Also, Public Holidays, if the calculator supports it. If an employee gets a base rate of $20 and your Saturday multiplier is 1.5 (Time and a Half), they receive $30 on Saturday’s. When you enter a timesheet the system pays staff at the appropriate rate based on the days worked only. Why do these only work for one employment type? If you you have a Full Time employee (base $20/hour), and a Casual employee (base $20/hour + 25% casual loading = $25/hour). This table shows how a Single Rate Award Calculator would calculate the cost of two shifts. Weekday Rate – Full Time Saturday Rate – Full Time Weekday Rate – Casual Saturday Rate – Casual 20 30 25 37.5 In most awards, you’re meant to apply the 1.5 multiplier and then the 25% casual loading! Here is how Fair Work’s Pay Rate Calculator says you should have paid: Base Rate – Full Time (1x) Saturday Rate – Full Time (1.5x) Base Rate – Casual (1.25x) Saturday Rate – Casual (1.75x) 20 30 25 35 Single Rate Award Calculator’s are great if you have staff on a single employment type as all their multipliers will be the same. However as soon as you have different kinds of staff, it stops working correctly. (It also doesn’t work if you have to pay overtime, penalty rates, deal with leave or accruals. It’s really just for simple weekend rates) Some payroll systems include Single Rate Calculators, but most likely you’ll need an external system. Most award interpretation tools on the market can be used for Single Rate Calculation. If that’s what you need, just pick whichever looks good and is well supported. However, if you have multiple employment types, or other more complex pay requirements (eg. Overtime, Allowances, Penalty Rates, RDOs, TOIL, or Leave costing), read on… I employ more than one type of employee or I have to pay overtime, penalty rates, or allowances or I have to manage RDO or TOIL accruals and leave If any of these sound familiar, you’re after an Award Rule Engine. It’s called a rule engine because it’s based on different payroll rules that you configure, allowing you to pay staff at different rates across the week. However, it also covers different rates within the same day and for different employment types. Some Award Rule Engines also come with pre-built sets of rules called Templates. A template contains all of the rules necessary to pay under a particular Fair Work Award. A good template will include all of the base rates for different levels of staff (each employee will have a minimum wage and the template should include this). A really good template will automatically keep your payroll software up to date based on Fair Work Award updates. Here’s some other things to keep an eye out for when comparing Award Rule Engines. You should ask these questions before implementing a system so you don’t get burned 3 months down the track. Can I set different Saturday/Sunday multipliers for Full Time and Casual staff? When staff pay rates go up (each year when the Fair Work updates minimum rates), are these updated automatically? Are staff pay rates automatically updated in the linked payroll system? Does the engine understand the concept of Ordinary Hours? (Ordinary hours of work accrue superannuation and count towards overtime, while non-ordinary hours don’t. Systems that treat all time as ordinary can end up costing you a lot more in labour costs – and staff won’t complain if you get that wrong!) Can I configure different pay rates for junior staff? Does the system automatically update them on birthdays? How does the engine handle RDOs or TOIL accrual? Are you able to configure accrual for arbitrary leave types? Can the engine pay the correct allowances for split shifts? Can you configure how long a shift must be “split” before this kicks in? Can you configure automatic allowances (like Laundry Allowances) and manual ones (like Overtime Meal Allowances)? Just for specific employees? Based on the times or days that they work? Can I configure specific Public Holiday dates for each employee (important if you have  multiple sites with different Show Holidays or Regional Public Holidays). How is overtime calculated if an employee takes leave midway through the pay period? What if they take it on the last day? Can I calculate overtime based on an employee working outside their rostered hours? If a Template has been built based on an Award, can I change the ordinary span of hours based on agreement with the majority of my staff? Can I configure special provisions for shift workers? By the way… with Tanda’s Award Rule Engine, the answer to all those questions is yes! Hopefully, this post has helped clear some confusion around the types of tools that exist in the market and what you can use depending on how your workforce is set up. If you’ve got any further questions, feel free to email us on info@tanda.co

Awards & Rostering    |   

Australian Minimum Wage Update for 2016

With the End of Financial Year fast approaching, it’s time for you to start thinking about minimum wage and what is required of you as a business owner for the New Financial Year. Fair Work Australia has recently released its decision on national employment standards, which include wage increases for Modern Award rates. As of July 1 2016, the national minimum wage will increase by 2.4% or $15.80 per week. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of these changes and have updated your pay rates for your employees correctly. How does the minimum wage update affect you? July 1, 2016 is the official day set by Fair Work for the proposed changes to take action, so it’s important that you are aware of any changes and understand what is expected of you in regards to workplace compliance, before July 1. Employers who have employees covered by a Modern Award… have the responsibility to check the updates to the Modern Award rate or the national minimum wage, and ensure that their records are updated as of July 1, and that the first pay run after July 1 is paid at the new pay rates. For example: Taylor, aged 24 is employed as a Casual Level 3, on the General Retail Award 2010. Typically, Taylor will work: Monday – 11:00am to 5:30pm (6 hours) Thursday – 5:00pm to 9:00pm (4 hours) Saturday – 10:30am to 5:00pm (6 hours) Sunday – 11:00am to 3:30 pm (4 hours 30 minutes) Prior to 1 July 2016, Taylor would have received $584.30 for working the 20.5 hours above. But in the New Financial Year, Taylor would now receive $598.51 for the same shifts which is an overall increase of $14.21 per week*. So that could be an extra $730 in Taylor’s bank account for the year. *The above example was automatically calculated using Tanda’s Award Interpretation software. Employers who have a custom agreement… whether this is an ‘above award rate’ or an Enterprise Agreement have the responsibility to carry out a ‘better off overall test’ (BOOT). This confirms that the current payment arrangement is better for the employee than the industry Modern Award. If the above award rate is higher than the new rate, then as an employer your responsibility is to ensure that you continue paying above the award rate. Why is it such an issue and what does this mean for businesses? National employment standards are important markers for employers as they provide the outline for what is expected by Fair Work, when managing and paying staff. Challenges have arisen over the years for employers who have struggled to keep up with the intricate details and updates to the numerous awards. Many employers experience paperwork headaches when trying to update their pay rates based on changes to Awards, and it is often further complicated by the additional factors of penalty rates and overtime. How can Tanda help? Managing minimum wage updates every year is a tedious and unnecessary task. But there are tools that automate this process… Tanda is workforce management software specialising in automating award interpretation in addition to rostering and timesheets. The market-leading award interpreter automatically calculates the gross wage for your staff based on your industry award and additional factors such as penalty rates and public holidays. Tanda then takes this information and transfers it into your payroll software, in a format that is ready to be processed, so you can pay your staff quickly and effectively. The best part about all of it- is that Tanda automatically updates Modern Award pay rates each year for you, in accordance with Fair Work’s minimum wage update. Tanda stores all your records securely in the cloud to meet your compliance expectations, but it also takes the stress out of your EOFY paperwork. Give up the calculator for good this EOFY! Get rid of the pay rates headache, and get ready for a stress-free EOFY with Tanda. Simply sign up for a free trial with Tanda to see what the award rates increases means for your business: www.tanda.co/award-interpretation For more information regarding Fair Work’s updates, visit the Fair Work Commission website.

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Jake Phillpot

Director: Jake manages Tanda's end-to-end customer journey and market growth.

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