The National Retail Association has today expressed its dismay at a job-crushing decision by the Fair Work Commission to increase the cost of providing work opportunities to young people. Junior pay rates
At a time when the Federal Government has implemented multi-billion budget measures to encourage business owners to hire young workers, the Commission’s decision to drive up junior wages was baffling to employers, NRA Deputy CEO Lindsay Carroll said.
Even more disturbingly, the Commission made the decision without taking any evidence about the potential impact on either businesses or teenagers who will now find it harder to secure work.
As a result of the ruling, from 1 February 2021 retail employers will be forced to pay thousands of teenage workers adult rates of pay.
“While this might seem like a win for workers on the face of it, it will mean that teenage candidates will now be competing with experienced adults in the retail space for the same job,” Ms Carroll said.
“Junior pay rates have always been a recognition that young workers starting out in the industry need more support on the job and are not as productive as more experienced workers.
“They are also intended to incentivise employers to give teenagers a ‘leg up’ in their career paths, opening up opportunities and helping them learn skills that they take with them throughout their careers.
“This decision to drive up the cost of hiring teenage workers will inevitably lead to a shift away from hiring younger people, as the financial proposition simply doesn’t add up for business owners anymore.
“As a time when the Federal Government is stepping on the economic accelerator as hard as it can to get young people into jobs, it is baffling that the Fair Work Commission is pulling on the handbrake.”
Ms Carroll said the precedent from this decision posed a very serious threat to teenagers working in similar industries, such as fast food.
She said while the NRA was the only major retail employer group to fight the issue in the Commission, other industry groups had also supported the case and together they would be looking at options for appealing it.
“We saw a parallel some years ago when wages for junior apprentices in the trade sector were increased, and the number of young people being offered jobs in that space has plunged ever since.
“There can be little doubt that this decision will have the same impact on teenagers in retail, and other areas if it is allowed to stand unchallenged.”