This week we saw the NSW Government pass its laws extending the minimum lifespan of gift cards from one year to three years.  I know from speaking to many members that this will cause headaches in a range of areas – from accounting for unused cards on your balance sheets through to regulatory red tape for businesses that operate across state borders.  We’ve also had some members concerned that they have already incurred expenses for printing cards with a one-year validity period.  The NRA made these concerns very clear to the Government ahead of the Parliamentary debate.

However, in our discussions it became clear to us that the Government was determined to press ahead with what it viewed as an important consumer protection measure.  In these circumstances, the NRA made the strategic decision to try to work with the Government to ensure the implementation is as smooth as possible, and that there is a strong campaign to ensure all retailers are aware of their new responsibilities.  We see little value for members in having a public fight with the government when they are clearly not going to change their minds.  So we have tried to keep the lines of communication open so we can work through the issues retailers will face as these measures are rolled out across New South Wales.

Staying in New South Wales, the changes to Boxing Day trading regulations will come into force this year.  The State Government is preparing an educational campaign to run from October 2017 to early December 2017, to raise awareness and to assist retailers across NSW and their staff understand these changes.  The most critical element is that staff must freely elect to work, and businesses must freely chose to open.  Significant penalties may apply if retailers are found to have coerced or harassed an employee to work on Boxing Day, or if a landlord is found to have forced a retail tenant to open on Boxing Day.  We will keep you informed on progress of this change.

In Queensland, the NRA is continuing to work on an education campaign in conjunction with the State Government about the ban on lightweight plastic bags from July 1 next year.  If your business operates in Queensland, this will apply to you.  Make sure you have all the information you need to make the transition by attending one of our free workshops.  Details are available at www.qldbagban.com.au.

Where ever you are across Australia, you’ll no doubt be turning your minds towards your Christmas and New Year rosters and opening hours.  Once again the NRA will publish our annual guide to Christmas trading in coming weeks.  We are awaiting clarification from a couple of states on how their laws will be applied this year, with Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday.  I also remind you to ensure you are meeting your obligations to your staff, including any casuals you employ for the busy season.  The last thing you want to start the new year will be a complaint about pay or conditions.  Make sure you get in touch with the NRA if you need any advice.  The service is free for members, and could help you avoid problems down the track.

Have a great week.

Dominique Lamb, CEO