Retail struggle in January 2020

Australia is now below 500 active Coronavirus cases, a remarkable feat compared to other nations around the world. Containing the virus was always going to be critical in unwinding business restrictions and has resulted in all states and territories beginning the process of reopening their respective economies.

This led to the Prime Minister using his National Press Club address last week to unveil the Government’s economic road to recovery. Two issues discussed by the PM should be of interest to NRA members.

First, industrial relations is an area that affects all retailers. The PM announced that Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter will chair five working groups aimed at achieving agreement between business and unions in the following areas:

  • Award simplification;
  • Enterprise agreement making;
  • Casuals and fixed term employees;
  • Compliance and enforcement; and
  • Greenfields agreements for new enterprises.

The NRA is well placed to provide expert assistance to the federal government on these issues and we look to contributing our views.  Over a long period of time, we have advocated that the current system is needlessly complicated and is difficult to navigate, particularly for small business.

For over 18 months our specialised in-house team of IR experts have led efforts to manage the regulatory response to wage compliance and Award simplification, so we have a strong track record at being a leader in IR discussion.

Our work in IR reform recently has included being the only industry association to have represented retailers in all state-based Wage Theft inquiries; the only association in 2020 to have consistently called for Modern Award wages to remain at current levels; and led recent discussions on an emergency variation to the Retail Award.

Following the recent Federal Court decision involving leave entitlements for a casual employee, the future of casual work is a key issue for small, medium and large retailers. In the current economic climate and beyond, our key motivation is to be able to retain the flexibility that casual employment provides for our members and also, the financial viability of businesses who may be exposed to Rossato-style claims. A common sense solution is needed – especially as many of our members focus on recovery and sales in the lead up to the peak trade season. Our workplace relations team have been fielding lots of questions about the state of the law relating to casual employment and can provide practical advice on ways for retailers to manage risk. Our advice hotline is available to all members for exactly this reason.

Also, we were pleased to hear the PM flag reforms to vocational training as part of his address. There is no reason why a worker should not see retail as a career option, rather than simply a temporary part-time job. We would like to see greater access to training, accredited or non-accredited, to help dispel the notion that a retail job is a second-choice form of employment.

All the best for the week and keep well.