Retail struggle in January 2020

As foreshadowed in last week’s CEO column, media reporting in recent days has covered the upcoming Annual Wage Review decision.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has undoubtedly got a difficult decision ahead of itself. Unions are calling for a 3.5 per cent increase beginning from 1 July while industry groups, such as the NRA, are far more circumspect.

In our submission to the FWC, we called for an increase that is equal to CPI and for the starting date to be deferred to 1 November 2021. While we absolutely want low-paid workers to be receiving a sufficient wage, the fact is there remains far too much uncertainty to be complacent about upcoming economic conditions.

JobKeeper has ended, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been halted for those under 50, and hard-lockdowns are not quite a thing of the past just yet. Consequently, business confidence remains in a volatile position and measures such as wage increases need to be carefully managed so as to not jeopardise jobs. There is not much point in offering someone a pay rise if they end up unemployed.

Although Australia is no longer technically in recession, the economy is yet to recover to pre-COVID levels with a contraction of 1.1 per cent in the 12 months between December 2019 and December 2020.We’re only a quarter of the way through 2021 and already Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland (twice) have implemented hard-lockdowns. An increase that keeps pace with the cost of living (CPI) and comes in when the vaccination rollout will be more advanced is the most prudent approach.

In other news, the Federal Government says it will work to reform laws and regulations around sexual assault in response to Ms Jenkins’ Respect at Work report. From SDA’s 2019 survey into sexual harassment, we know 39% of retail workers report being sexually harassed – 60% of these individuals were female and aged between 18 and 34. A staggering 57% experienced sexual harassment on more than one occasion, with only 25% reporting the harassment to their employer– it is a timely reminder for all employers to ensure that they are up to date with the relevant legislation and training. In order to get the best result for our businesses it is crucial that we as employers focus on the culture of our organisations and change the culture of under reporting in this space.

With Easter having come and gone for another year the next nationwide public holiday is fast approaching with Anzac Day on 25 April. It is a solemn date on the Australian calendar and as you’d all be aware trading hours’ regulations for the day differ from state to state. Further complicating this year is the fact that the day itself falls on a Sunday, meaning the public holiday for most (but not all) states falls on Monday, April 26.

The NRA has compiled a summary of the rules for each state and FAQs which can be found here. The important thing to remember is that these are allowable hours – you’re not required to open during these times if you wish to observe the day away from work. But if any of you have further questions then please don’t hesitate to contact our team on 1800 RETAIL.

All the best for the week ahead.