Published: Sat, February 25, 2017
Culture | By Henry Herrera

Cutting Sunday penalty rates will hurt young people the most

Cutting Sunday penalty rates will hurt young people the most

On Thursday, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) confirmed its decision to reduce Sunday penalty rates from double time (200%) to time and a half (150%) for retail and hospitality workers.

However, ACTU President Ged Kearney said the FWC's decision to radically cut Sunday and public holiday pay will give nearly one million Australian workers a huge pay cut.

So if you're one of the hundreds of thousands of Australian workers across those three industries who works on Sundays or public holidays, you just copped a pay cut.

"If the Fair Work Commission decides to cut penalty rates, they are effectively saying millions of Australians can do with less money".

Pressure for a reduction to penalty rates has increased since Australia's Productivity Commission in 2015 recommended cutting Sunday rates in line with Saturdays.

"That was the whole idea of penalty rates in the first place", he said.

The penalty rates will be reduced from 175 percent to 150 percent, which for some workers could mean a $6,000 cut. "There's even some businesses that will look to make some of the part timers full time [after this]-it gives people a new chance to have a look at their rates budget and see what they can do about it".

For all the breast beating about cuts to penalty rates, we should not forget the significant groups which stand to benefit.

Should Saturday and Sunday penalty rates be the same because there is no distinction between the two anymore?

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Although both measures are opposed by the government and therefore won't be achieved in legislation this term, Adelaide Law School professor and labour law expert, Andrew Stewart, told Guardian Australia the commission already had the power to spare current workers.

Largely, those hours will be taken on by existing employees, but we can expect the change to pull many unemployed folk into the workforce as well.

The latest Fair Work Commission decision was the result of a full bench of commissioners hearing evidence from 143 witnesses after receiving 5,900 submissions.

Retail workers face a reduction from 200 per cent to 150 per cent.

So while the Australian economy remains slow, job opportunities remain slim and housing and education costs keep rising, vulnerable young workers just took another massive hit. While young people might be able to catch up with some areas of social life outside of the weekend, their parents and older family members are more likely to work in the week, making it hard to find time to spend together as a family.

Full-time and part-time hospitality workers will have their Sunday penalty rate cut from 175 per cent to 150 per cent.

In Australia, penalty rates in fact apply to working weekends, public holidays, overtime and late-night or early morning shifts.

While the FWC acknowledged the changes would adversely affect some workers, the commission said the cuts would boost services and trade on public holidays and Sundays.

Now that the decision has landed there are widespread predictions that these deals will now be progressed once the cuts take effect from July.

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