Sunday penalty rate cut ‘a bonus ’ for business

A CUT in Sunday penalty rates for casual restaurant workers might tempt more businesses to stay open, Border employer groups said yesterday.

A Fair Work Commission full bench this week cut the 75 per cent penalty rate for casual Sunday workers to 50 per cent.

Murray-Riverina NSW Business Chamber regional manager Ben Foley said the commission’s decision was an extremely important one.

“Albury is not a ghost town when you walk around it on a Sunday,” he said.

“There are shops, cafes and restaurants open, but there’s also quite a few that have actually shut their doors and can’t see any benefit in opening.”

Mr Foley said some business owners would no doubt review whether it was cost-effective to now open on Sundays, which in turn would create new job opportunities.

“It’s a decision in the right direction,” he said.

“We’re not calling for a scrapping of penalty rates, but what we’re calling for is a review of the current system.”

The commission accepted an argument from Restaurant and Catering Australia that Sunday penalty rates could have an effect — albeit “limited” — on employment, especially for owner-operators.

It found the 50 per cent penalty for permanent employees reasonable, but the extra 25 per cent for casuals was too generous.

Leading Border restaurateur Nick Bond said there was no doubt weekend penalty rates, especially on Sundays, were a major impost.

Mr Bond and wife Connie do not open their Wodonga Hollywoods pizza bar business on Sundays, but wear the extra labor costs for their Clubhouse Bar and Bistro at the Wodonga Golf Club.

“Certainly there’s a lot of competing factors in opening Sundays,” he said.

“At the clubhouse I do open Sundays, however it is a much bigger operational cost to swing the doors open.”

Mr Bond said it was impossible, for example, to charge double the price for a cappuccino to cover penalty rates.

“It does makes it more difficult,” he said.

But Mr Bond said it was equally important that he show flexibility with his staff’s personal lives.

“They work to pay bills and support the family so it’s very important the employer and the employee mutually respect each other in the sense that they’re happy working,” he said.

Albury Northside Chamber of Commerce deputy chairman Scott Mann said penalty rates had long been too high.

“A lot of our members are finding it very difficult to operate on those days when penalty rates kick in,” he said.

“The expectations of the consumer have changed — that is, an array of products should be available seven days a week.”