Retail struggle in January 2020

It’s hard to believe that we have now reached the six-month mark since Australia first began to implement lockdown measures. Although some businesses have found ways to succeed during this period, for the vast majority of you this has been a time of unprecedented challenges.

New daily case numbers in Victoria appear to be heading down, while the rest of the country seems to be keeping the lid on any further widespread outbreaks at this point. However, the recent move by the New Zealand Government to restore lockdown measures, after previously achieving zero cases for over 100 days, demonstrates just how unpredictable this pandemic can be. It is for this reason that we can expect state governments to err on the side of caution when it comes to removing restrictions moving forward.

There are preliminary discussions being held at state levels in relation to the leasing Code of Conduct, particularly in Victoria.  We will keep you updated as these discussions progress and more information becomes available.

We have seen South Australia introduce the requirement for hospitality and certain retail venues to have a COVID Marshal on premises from this Friday, 21 August.  We have concerns regarding the increasing prevalence of violence against retail workers and will continue to communicate with the South Australian Government in an attempt to achieve a better outcome for retailers in that state.  More information regarding the requirements, including COVID Marshal training, can be found here.

On Friday, the ABS will release its preliminary report on retail turnover for July. Although we cannot confine analysis on the current state of retail to a solitary month, it will be interesting to see how the sector performed given that was the month when Victoria was forced to begin reinstating restrictions and cases rose in other parts of the country.

In other news, last week also saw the High Court hand down a ruling that is good news for NRA members. It saw the overturning of the decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court in Mondelez v AMWU last year that both full-time and part-time employees received 10 days of personal leave each year.

Under the Federal Court’s ruling, the amount of personal leave owing to an employee became something wholly unpredictable, as the employer would not know how much personal leave the employee had until they actually took it. This not only offered up a payroll nightmare, but also problems for complying with ASIC reporting requirements.

Thankfully the High Court overturned this decision, confirming that struggling businesses may continue to administer personal leave the same way they have done for the last ten years. We welcome this decision and very much see it as a victory for common sense.

All the best for the week and keep well.