Retail struggle in January 2020

Last week the Federal Attorney-General, Christian Porter, announced the memberships of the five industrial relations working groups charged with ensuring Australia has an appropriate IR system to ensure a speedy economic recovery.

I’m pleased to announce that the NRA has been selected to sit on the Award Simplification working group. This is an issue that we’ve advocated to various governments for a long time and we look forward to making a constructive contribution.

Those operating in the retail sector have an intimate understanding of just how needlessly complex the Modern Awards are. Most people outside the sector think we’re exaggerating when we say that since 2013 retailers have had to deal with nearly 14,000 different rates of pay depending on variables such as whether the employee is casual or permanent, their age, their classification and the times at which the work is performed. This number easily doubles if you take into account shift workers, baking production employees, apprentices and those working under the supported wage system.

Given Australia will be experiencing its first recession in 30 years, a rigid, complex and confusing system is going to be very counterproductive to getting those without work back into jobs. We also believe that the complexity of the current system has, in part, contributed to the number of underpayment cases that have occurred in recent times.

Many retailers do not have access to well-resourced HR departments to provide in-house advice to safeguard against unintentional mistakes. A small business owner trying to keep their business afloat during a recession doesn’t need the added burden of a confusing set of regulations when it comes to paying staff.

While the Federal Government is taking steps to simplify the Modern Award system, the Victorian Government is looking to pass the Wage Theft Bill 2020 (Vic) this week which puts employers around Victoria at risk of criminal prosecution and burdens retailers with unnecessary regulation during the current period of economic turmoil.

The NRA is the only retail association to have participated in all state-based and federal wage theft inquiries on behalf of the industry. We have engaged with all Victorian Legislative Council crossbenchers over the last week to express our grave concerns with the proposed legislation and provide them with a copy of our more detailed submissions on the issue.

No other retail organisation in Australia is better placed to advise the government on compliance and how to simplify the Modern Awards. We bring an unparalleled background on the issue and we are confident that we can achieve meaningful change that results in a more streamlined system that is easy to navigate and does not act as a deterrent to employing people.

All the best for the week and keep well.