Pleas from small retailers for the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to makes changes to the draft modern retail award and make use of the full five-year transition period have finally been heard.
Australian Retailers Association (ARA) employment relations spokesperson Yvonne Anderson said there is an assumption in the draft retail award that retailers are mass employers, but the reality is small retailers are the cornerstones of local communities and increases to wage bills from 1 January would force them to shed staff.
"As the only retail body at the transitional hearings for the new award in June, the ARA called for AIRC to make use of the full five-year transition period and now Minister Gillard has echoed its sentiments.
"Under the new retail award, small retailers would face increased wage bills of up to 16.5 per cent or over $28,000 at a time when they are still recovering from over 12 months of reduced trade and dampened consumer confidence.
Although it will only postpone imminent wage increases for small retailers, a five-year transitional period will allow retailers to accommodate these increases over time.
However, the full five-year transition may only delay the number of retailers who will forgo meeting consumer demand, as the increased costs begin to outweigh the commercial benefits of Sunday trading in some states including NSW, QLD and ACT (where penalty rates for hours worked on Sundays will increase from time and a half to double time under the new award).
"The ARA also welcomes proposed changes to part-time hours provisions that provide greater flexibility for the many small retailers who employ part-time workers.
"Greater flexibility in how small retailers can employ part-time employees under the new award will benefit women returning to work after having children," said Anderson.