Retail struggle in January 2020

There has been big news out of Canberra this week after the Morrison Government unveiled key industrial relations reforms that strongly relate to the retail sector.

As you’re all aware, ever since a 2018 Federal Court ruling there has been a high degree of uncertainty across several industries in relation to casual employees and ‘double-dipping’ claims. Retail businesses across Australia are already facing enough financial pressure following the COVID-induced recession without the need for being left with gigantic backpay bills for current or former casual employees.

The NRA has campaigned strongly over the last two years on the need to provide greater certainty to both casual workers and employers on what entitlements should be paid to this level of employees. In good news, we believe that the proposed legislation announced by Attorney-General Christian Porter provides the clarity desperately needed.

During the past six months, the NRA has been a contributor to the Attorney-General’s industrial relations working groups and advocated strongly for common-sense reforms to allow businesses to more easily offer additional shifts to their permanent staff. We believe the Bill due to go before Parliament this week achieves this.

Under the proposed legislation, employers will be required to offer permanent employment to a casual worker after 12 months if they have worked a regular pattern of shifts for the previous 6 months. The Bill also contains a statutory definition of casual employment within the Fair Work Act. A worker will be considered a casual if work is offered without “firm, advance commitment” of ongoing opportunities, with a worker able to reject work and receive a casual loading.

The most important thing from the NRA’s perspective is that certainty is provided to employers. While the legislation is being introduced to Parliament this week, it is almost certain to be referred to committee and most probably won’t be voted on until early next year. In the meantime, we will continue to keep you updated on the progress of the legislation.

Meanwhile, the final month of the year kicked off with good economic news last Wednesday. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed strong GDP growth for the September quarter, meaning that Australia is officially out of recession.

While we’re by no means out of the woods, and many of you will continue to operate in a challenging environment, it does demonstrate that the economy is on track for a recovery. This positive news was further reinforced on Friday with the ABS recording a 1.4 per cent rise in retail turnover for October.

With restrictions continuing to be eased across the country and a vaccine expected to be available early next year, hopefully the worst of this pandemic is behind us and we can build further momentum for a speedy recovery. However, we do need to remain vigilant and continue the sector’s good work of providing COVID-safe workplaces for staff and customers.

All the best for the week ahead.