Mixed results for cutting Sunday penalty rates in regional Australia: CSU expert

1 MARCH 2017

A CSU expert believes there are mixed results for regional Australia in the proposal to cut Sunday penalty rates for some weekend workers.

Professor John HicksA Charles Sturt University (CSU) expert believes there are mixed results for regional Australia in the proposal to cut Sunday penalty rates for some weekend workers.

CSU Professor of Economics and expert in labour economics, John Hicks, said the recent review by the Fair Work Commission into penalty rates in hospitality and retail awards has found the impact of working on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays has decreased in recent years.

"This led to one Commission recommendation to cut Sunday penalty rates over time," said Professor Hicks, a senior researcher with the University's Institute for Land, Water and Society.

"Penalty rates were instigated to compensate employees for working outside of 'normal work hours'. But these days, what are these hours?"

Professor Hicks believes the decision may result in an increase in trading hours, higher levels of staffing and improved service and an expanded range and types of services provided in the hospitality and retail industry in regional Australia.

"This will be an advantage for regional economies that partially depend on tourism. It will also be a boon for workers looking for work in these communities, such as school leavers and university students," he said.

"However, workers currently in jobs under the affected awards will receive less income. This is why the Commission has recommended appropriate transitional arrangements to lessen the blow."

Professor Hicks acknowledged that not all workers in these industries are employed under the effected awards.

"Many are employed on the basis of enterprise bargaining agreements. Generally, employers and workers believe these agreements offer superior employment conditions - otherwise they would not be used - and it is unlikely that the decision will impact on these employment relationships."

The CSU academic recognises that individual workers and individual employers will differ significantly in their opinion of what constitutes a preferable working arrangement.

"When workers and employers can negotiate employment outcomes the result is likely to be acceptable to both parties.

"When they are constrained by an award, some workers and some employers will be disadvantaged by the decision. Industry-wide awards cannot provide for all possible outcomes that might be agreed by workers and their employers, so this will be a difficult process," Professor Hicks concluded.

Professor Hicks is in the School of Accounting and Finance at CSU in Bathurst.

Media Note:
For interviews with Professor John Hicks, who is based in Bathurst, contact CSU Media.

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