Retail struggle in January 2020

There is no doubt that all eyes are on Canberra at the moment. With the retail industry made up of 55% women and the largest employer of youth in the country, we cannot ignore the statistics which show that 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a man, with young women experiencing significantly higher rates of violence than women in older groups. As an employer union dedicated to assisting businesses in all aspects of the workplace, it is important that we acknowledge the experiences of victims across Australia and call upon our governments to protect women, especially in the workplace.

Also in Canberra this week, the Government continues its attempt to pass its Industrial Relations Omnibus Bill. The NRA has a very clear position on this legislation – the Senate should pass the Bill and do so without delay. This is why yesterday we issued a joint statement with no less than 10 other business groups calling on Senators to act immediately.

With JobKeeper set to end shortly, businesses of all shapes and sizes need certainty. Australia is still a long way from getting out of the woods when it comes to bouncing back from the first recession in 30 years and providing a clear IR framework moving forward will help to keep people in jobs.

The employment statistics from the past 12 months are very sobering. As the sector that employs the largest number of young people in Australia, it is very concerning that 85,000 fewer people aged 15-24 were in a job in January 2021 compared to February 2020. For the 25-34 age bracket there was 61,000 fewer people in employment for the same time period. These are not just high school kids working on checkouts either, it’s also young people missing out on traineeships, apprenticeships or a full-time job.

It’s also important to note that the process that has led us to this point has been very rigorous. There’s been a nine month long consultation period between the government, employer groups and unions. Contrary to the myth being peddled by those opposing the legislation, the business community has most certainly not got everything we would have wanted. There has been compromise stemming from a recognition that we need an IR system that fosters job creation while also safeguarding basic workers’ rights.

Following the Bill passing the House of Representatives, it was then scrutinised by a Senate Committee which concluded that the legislation should be passed. It’s hard to think of a Bill in recent history, IR or otherwise, that has been subjected to a more thorough vetting process.

Australia has so far navigated COVID-19, from a health and economic perspective, with more success than many other like-minded countries. But there’s still plenty to play out before we can claim mission accomplished. The next six months will be crucial to ensuring businesses stay afloat and people stay in jobs. This IR package will provide certainty to business and go a long way to boosting confidence that drives the necessary investment to foster job creation.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has extended the subsidy for new trainees or apprentices. The cap on places under the program will be lifted, meaning there is no longer a limit on the number of apprentices who can be supported under the scheme. The subsidy remains available to employers of any size or industry, Australia-wide who sign up an Australian apprentice or trainee before 30 September 2021. It will now be paid for a full 12-month period for new apprentices and trainees. Employers are eligible for 50 per cent of the wages for a new or recommencing apprentice or trainee, up to $7,000 per quarter. We welcome the announcement and urge any of you with any queries on the scheme to contact the NRA.

And finally, you would have all seen the Federal Government’s tourism support package that was unveiled last week. Although it is a measure principally aimed at supporting the tourism and aviation industries, we certainly hope there’s a positive flow-on effect to retail.

Particularly if you’re a business operating in a tourist hotspot, you rely heavily on travellers spending at your store. While if you’re a retailer operating at an airport then you clearly need people feeling confident about flying again to keep the business afloat. We certainly hope that the scheme has the desired effect and we see strong economic activity in tourist areas that have been hard hit by COVID.

All the best for the week ahead.