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Why Sunday penalty rates should stay

By Kim Fischer - 26 May 2016 32

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Although the majority of people no longer go to church on Sundays, it is still mostly a day of leisure. ABS statistics show that Sunday remains an overwhelmingly non-work day. Even though Sunday working participation rates have more than doubled, still only 20% of currently employed working age people work on a Sunday compared with 80% on weekdays.

The same statistics found that working on Sundays reduces family leisure time by over two hours, inclusive of reduced parents’ time with their children and reduces leisure time in the company of friends by an hour and a half.

Conversely, while there is some evidence that there are lower employment rates because of Sunday penalty rates, it is a less settled issue.

Although it is a cliché, Australia does have the idea of ‘a fair go’ deep in its genes. Early governors shared food among soldiers and prisoners evenly to prevent unrest and appointed ex-convicts as senior public servants and magistrates, unthinkable under the rigid class hierarchy from England.

Australia’s world-leading Court of Conciliation and Arbitrations heard the famous Harvester Case of 1907, where the first minimum wage was set at the amount required for “a man to support a family of 5”. In the judgment handed down, Judge Higgins expressed a sentiment that many of us still feel strongly today:

The standard of “fair and reasonable” must [be] the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilized community …

I cannot think that an employer and a workman contract on an equal footing … when the workman submits to work for a low wage to avoid starvation or pauperism … [Wages must be] sufficient to insure the workman food, shelter, clothing, frugal comfort [and] provision for evil days …

But the concept of a “fair go” can cut both ways. Even though penalty rates date back to the same 1907 judgment, Sunday penalty rates have been a hot-button issue this election.

People on both sides claim to only be motivated by “fairness”.

Those against penalty rates see it as “unfair” for people to be paid a huge premium for the same work when Sunday no longer is the “day of rest”.

On the flip side, people argue that those receiving Sunday wages are disproportionately likely to be working on or near minimum hourly rates were it not for the “bonus” given by penalty rates.

A 1981 inquiry established two reasons for the payment of penalty rates:

  • compensation to employees for “disability or inconvenience” arising from the time of day or day of the week on which they are required to work
  • a deterrent to employers who require employees to work at times or on days regarded as being outside the prescribed times of ordinary working hours or beyond what are regarded as ordinary working days

The idea of “disability” here means that people are unable to undertake activities they might otherwise wish to do, such as play sport on the weekend. A 2014 split decision by the Fair Work Commission found that:

… Sunday penalty rates may have a limited effect on employment, particularly in relation to owner-operators working on Sundays in preference to engaging staff for additional hours … [the idea that] the level of disability for working on Sundays is no higher than that for Saturdays is rejected. The position has not changed since a Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission considered this issue in 2003. Working on Sundays involves a loss of a day of family time and personal interaction upon which special emphasis is placed by Australian society.

On balance I agree that Sunday penalty rates are still worth protecting – but as Bill Shorten says, having an independent umpire like the Fair Work Commission to ensure that decisions are based on facts rather than political pandering is more important still.

Kim Fischer is an ACT Labor candidate for the seat of Ginninderra in the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election.

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32 Responses to
Why Sunday penalty rates should stay
JC 9:10 pm 26 May 16

Cantoangel said :

BrendanH said :

Garfield said :

Surely it would be better to get rid of Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, but raise the hourly pay rate to compensate for this,
.

Like McDonalds have done, but now getting canned for underpaying.

This has been a feature of many awards for quite a few years now. The SDA union has negotiated quite a few agreements and EBAs that see Sunday rates paid at 150% and Saturdays at normal rates in return for a higher base rate. They recognised that lower penalty rates were more likely to see more people employed, which is a win for the unions, good for the business and good for the people who have a job.

Same where I work. The shift workers, and no I am not one of them get around 30% extra regardless of days worked, including holidays.

I don’t have an issue with it. They are making sacrafices that I for example are not willing to take and as far as I am concerned should get renumerated for it.

Same too with weekend and night workers. They are working outside hours the MAJORITY don’t, outside the hours the majority of the country works too, and as far as I am concerned should get paid. Unless on a fixed roster system like where I work, which ensures an even spread of nights and weekends, I think penalty rates are the way to go. Take for example those that ONLY work weekends.

JC 9:07 pm 26 May 16

justin heywood said :

BrendanH said :

Garfield said :

Surely it would be better to get rid of Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, but raise the hourly pay rate to compensate for this, and then if anyone works more than a certain number of agreed hours (general what would be worked five days, Monday to Friday) that week any extra hours they work are paid at a higher rate; say 1.5 times at first, rising to 2 times, etc if the hours worked continues. This might also increase employment, as employers take on more people to avoid having to pay penalty rates. If someone works more than five days a week now, say Sunday as well, they would still get the penalty loading for the extra hours, so nothing would change, except they would have a pay rise for the week hours. But why should those who choose/are rostered to say only work weekends get more hourly pay then those who are rostered on to work only week days. People who work weekdays have expenses too.
A few days of the year should retain penalty rates, such as Christmas Day and the like.

Like McDonalds have done, but now getting canned for underpaying.

That’s because they are not apparently paying the minimum wage; which means they must have been paying even less before. And they should get canned over that, if that is the case. But are we talking junior wages here, or adult?

What I read is they were paying the minimum wage, over in fact, and that is without anualising penalaty rates.

Mordd 7:58 pm 26 May 16

Cantoangel said :

BrendanH said :

Garfield said :

Surely it would be better to get rid of Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, but raise the hourly pay rate to compensate for this,
.

Like McDonalds have done, but now getting canned for underpaying.

This has been a feature of many awards for quite a few years now. The SDA union has negotiated quite a few agreements and EBAs that see Sunday rates paid at 150% and Saturdays at normal rates in return for a higher base rate. They recognised that lower penalty rates were more likely to see more people employed, which is a win for the unions, good for the business and good for the people who have a job.

Ah im guessing my union is the SDA then, thats exactly how my workplace does it now.

Mordd 7:57 pm 26 May 16

madelini said :

As a compromise or a 1st step, why not make the 1 1/2 times rate for Saturday the same for Sundays, instead of Sunday being double time. Same for public holidays – 1 1/2 times rate instead of triple time.

50% loading on your normal rate of pay should be enough recompense for anyone.

I work in retail atm and I get 1.0x on saturday and 1.5x on sunday already, who still gets saturday loadings and double on sunday, i don’t know anyone myself anymore that still gets that.

Maya123 5:37 pm 26 May 16

BrendanH said :

Garfield said :

Surely it would be better to get rid of Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, but raise the hourly pay rate to compensate for this, and then if anyone works more than a certain number of agreed hours (general what would be worked five days, Monday to Friday) that week any extra hours they work are paid at a higher rate; say 1.5 times at first, rising to 2 times, etc if the hours worked continues. This might also increase employment, as employers take on more people to avoid having to pay penalty rates. If someone works more than five days a week now, say Sunday as well, they would still get the penalty loading for the extra hours, so nothing would change, except they would have a pay rise for the week hours. But why should those who choose/are rostered to say only work weekends get more hourly pay then those who are rostered on to work only week days. People who work weekdays have expenses too.
A few days of the year should retain penalty rates, such as Christmas Day and the like.

Like McDonalds have done, but now getting canned for underpaying.

That’s because they are not apparently paying the minimum wage; which means they must have been paying even less before. And they should get canned over that, if that is the case. But are we talking junior wages here, or adult?

rubaiyat 3:54 pm 26 May 16

Garfield said :

“Although the majority of people no longer go to church on Sundays…” – then there’s no reason to treat Sunday any differently than the other days of the week by keeping penalty rates.

Most of the people I know who work Sundays do so in lieu of another work day during the week. They still get two days a week off (unless they choose to work additional days). Doesn’t make much sense to be paying them penalty rates for what is essentially their Friday.

So you will be applying for the jobs and undercutting the existing staff by insisting that you only work for regular pay with no penalties?

Or do you have something better to do?

neanderthalsis 3:32 pm 26 May 16

BrendanH said :

Garfield said :

Surely it would be better to get rid of Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, but raise the hourly pay rate to compensate for this,
.

Like McDonalds have done, but now getting canned for underpaying.

This has been a feature of many awards for quite a few years now. The SDA union has negotiated quite a few agreements and EBAs that see Sunday rates paid at 150% and Saturdays at normal rates in return for a higher base rate. They recognised that lower penalty rates were more likely to see more people employed, which is a win for the unions, good for the business and good for the people who have a job.

Mysteryman 1:54 pm 26 May 16

“Although the majority of people no longer go to church on Sundays…” – then there’s no reason to treat Sunday any differently than the other days of the week by keeping penalty rates.

Most of the people I know who work Sundays do so in lieu of another work day during the week. They still get two days a week off (unless they choose to work additional days). Doesn’t make much sense to be paying them penalty rates for what is essentially their Friday.

JC 1:24 pm 26 May 16

Garfield said :

Surely it would be better to get rid of Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, but raise the hourly pay rate to compensate for this, and then if anyone works more than a certain number of agreed hours (general what would be worked five days, Monday to Friday) that week any extra hours they work are paid at a higher rate; say 1.5 times at first, rising to 2 times, etc if the hours worked continues. This might also increase employment, as employers take on more people to avoid having to pay penalty rates. If someone works more than five days a week now, say Sunday as well, they would still get the penalty loading for the extra hours, so nothing would change, except they would have a pay rise for the week hours. But why should those who choose/are rostered to say only work weekends get more hourly pay then those who are rostered on to work only week days. People who work weekdays have expenses too.
A few days of the year should retain penalty rates, such as Christmas Day and the like.

Like McDonalds have done, but now getting canned for underpaying.

rommeldog56 11:00 am 26 May 16

As a compromise or a 1st step, why not make the 1 1/2 times rate for Saturday the same for Sundays, instead of Sunday being double time. Same for public holidays – 1 1/2 times rate instead of triple time.

50% loading on your normal rate of pay should be enough recompense for anyone.

Maya123 10:53 am 26 May 16

Surely it would be better to get rid of Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, but raise the hourly pay rate to compensate for this, and then if anyone works more than a certain number of agreed hours (general what would be worked five days, Monday to Friday) that week any extra hours they work are paid at a higher rate; say 1.5 times at first, rising to 2 times, etc if the hours worked continues. This might also increase employment, as employers take on more people to avoid having to pay penalty rates. If someone works more than five days a week now, say Sunday as well, they would still get the penalty loading for the extra hours, so nothing would change, except they would have a pay rise for the week hours. But why should those who choose/are rostered to say only work weekends get more hourly pay then those who are rostered on to work only week days. People who work weekdays have expenses too.
A few days of the year should retain penalty rates, such as Christmas Day and the like.

Charlotte Harper 10:31 am 26 May 16

DavidL said :

Where is the tag on here that Kim Fisher is an endorsed Labor candidate in the upcoming ACT Legislative Assembly election ????

It’s there now. Thanks for picking that up.

gooterz 9:40 am 26 May 16

I fail to see the agreement for.
The agreement against stands that if someone has a family of 5, they shouldn’t need to work Sunday to survive. Maybe they should spread out the Sunday rate for every day of the week?

Why can’t the parents earn the big pay during the week instead of being forced to choose between seeing the kids on the weekend and working.
Its already mandated that someone can’t work more than 7 days straight without mega bucks in most awards.

chewy14 9:09 am 26 May 16

Have you ever thought that things like penalty rates are now the actual reason why Sunday is still considered a day of leisure or rest for many?

If you remove the legislated differences between Saturdays and Sundays, would the difference persist in the long term? And even if it did, does that mean we should legislate to pay people more on that day rather than letting supply and demand work out the appropriate rates of pay?

rommeldog56 8:52 am 26 May 16

Where is the tag on here that Kim Fisher is an endorsed Labor candidate in the upcoming ACT Legislative Assembly election ????

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