Cuts ‘a win for common sense’

The Pharmacy Guild says it welcomes the Fair Work Commission decision on penalty rates, which it describes as “reasonable, balanced and evidence-based”

Once implemented, this decision will help enable community pharmacies to continue to provide access to vital medicines and other services across weekends and public holidays, the Pharmacy Guild said today.

The Commission ruled today that 7am-9pm Sunday penalty rates for full and part-time pharmacy employees will be reduced from 200% to 150%, and for casuals from 225% to 175%.

Rates for public holiday rates have been reduced from 250% to 225% for full and part-time pharmacy employees, and from 275% to 250% for casuals.

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild says the Guild welcomes the decision, calling it a sensible way forward that balances the interests of patients, pharmacy staff and local community pharmacy small businesses.

“It has never been in anyone’s interest for pharmacies to be unable to open on Sundays or public holidays,” the spokesperson says.

“This decision will help pharmacies to meet community expectations that they will be able to access vital health services seven days a week.”

Small business ombudsman and former pharmacy owner Kate Carnell also praised today’s cuts to penalty rates, saying the decision is “a step in the right direction” and a “win for common sense”.

“While it wasn’t quite to the extent proposed by some, it’s certainly a big step in the right direction; it will be important now for a transition period to be put in place to ensure employers and employees are fully across the changes,” Ms Carnell says.

“Small businesses are telling me that up until now, the wage costs on weekends and holidays are just so high that they have no choice but to close their doors. For those who do stay open, they’re basically providing a community service for their regular clientele, who simply expect them to be open each and every day.

“This decision – backed by previous Productivity Commission findings – means small businesses will be able to trade longer, which means their staff will be given more hours, while communities will benefit from the increased economic activity it will generate; particularly in our rural and regional areas.”

She pointed out that supermarkets and big fast-food chains have already traded away penalty rates in their Enterprise Bargaining Agreements, “so the only people who have been forced to pay the higher wages on Sundays are mum and dad small business owners”.

“I just don’t understand why some continue to argue against allowing small businesses the chance to grow, particularly given they’re doing more than their fair share of heavy lifting when it comes to creating jobs in this country.”

The Australian Retailers Association also welcomed the cuts.

“Reducing these rates from double time to time and a half, will increase retail growth nationally and reduce the unemployment rate in Australia,” says its executive director, Russel Zimmerman.

“With retailers currently paying employees double time on Sundays, many retailers are forced to close their doors on this day, impeding on growth in the retail sector,” Mr Zimmerman says.

Given today’s decision to reduce Sunday Penalty Rates to 150%, ARA members have said that they will look at employing more staff on a Sunday as it is their busiest trading day of the week, he says.

“Sunday wages have previously been detrimental to Australian retailers, as many employers could only afford to roster one staff member on this day.”

The ARA says it believes this reduction will increase employment of young people who are currently seeking weekend work, as more stores will be able to open on Sundays and have more staff working at these times.

“Reducing Sunday rates from double time to time and a half will give employers approximately 4-5% reduction on wages which they will be able to reinvest in employing more staff, increasing employment in the retail industry,” Mr Zimmerman says.

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