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ARA: Retailers crippled by Easter penalty rates

easter egg, broken, chocolateRetailers that open over the Easter long weekend will be ‘forced to bear the brunt of much higher costs, with penalty rates applicable for up to four days in some states,’ according to the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).

ARA executive director, Russell Zimmerman, said many retailers will not open this Easter long weekend due to prohibitive labour costs associated with public holiday penalty rates. Penalty rates were introduced in the early 1900s as compensation for employees’ work performed outside ‘normal’ hours.

“Consumers are expecting retailers to be open and trading this Easter long weekend where laws allow, and retail businesses will be forced to wear the higher costs as a result,” said Zimmerman.

“Excessive penalty rates not only hurt business owners, but impact on the shopping experience, which is crucial to a retailer’s capacity to compete.

“Retailers will be forced to operate with a lower number of employees than required, and workers will have to be offered less hours of employment in order for retailers to afford penalty rates over the Easter long weekend.”

The ARA is currently engaged in a review of the General Retail Industry Award 2010 (GRIA), looking to reducing costs for retailers, particularly on Sundays, with the independent arbitrator, Fair Work Commission (FWC).

“Penalty rates should be determined by the FWC within an appropriate regulatory framework, and we look forward to collaborating with the government to ensure the needs of both retail businesses and their employees are met by any changes that may occur to the payment of penalty rates,” said Zimmerman.

Yesterday,  leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, said penalty rates continue to be a fundamental part of a strong safety net for Australian workers.

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