news

Everything you need to know about the penalty rates debate.

Sundays are sacred.

And not just for the religious among us.

Sunday is a day of rest and recuperation. A day of spending quality time with family and friends. A day that finally provides that bit of time you need to get to an odd-job around the house, or do some exercise, or go shopping, or cook up a big batch of meals to get you through the busy week ahead.

For many reasons, Sundays are special.

Which is why people who work on Sundays get paid more per hour than they would working a weekday.

Rachel wouldn’t be working at Central Perk on a Sunday for normal pay.

Because if they weren’t working, we wouldn’t be able to brunch, shop, catch public transport, or be attended to at hospital if we had a medical emergency.

But now, the government wants to ditch penalty rates.

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is a penalty rate?

Employees often get paid a higher rate for working overtime and early or late shifts and weekends and public holidays.

The Sunday penalty rate – which Malcolm Turnbull has said is obsolete and will inevitably be reduced – is double the regular hourly rate.

Saturday is usually paid at a time-and-a-half (the regular rate plus half of that again, per hour).

Working in retail requires certain skills.

Why does the PM want to ditch Sunday penalty rates?

Malcolm Turnbull told Melbourne’s 3AW the Sunday penalty rate was a relic from a past time and did not fit in with today’s seven-day economy.

Liberals have previously argued that reducing the double-time penalty rate for Sundays would drive business growth and employment and help reduce Australia’s high youth unemployment rate, which – at more than 13 per cent – is at its highest since 2001, Fairfax Media reports.

We imagine Christina Yang wouldn’t be thrilled about losing her penalty rates.

Research by Restaurant and Catering Australia found replacing the Sunday rates with a flat weekend rate could create up to 40,000 new jobs nationally, the ABC reports.

According to the association, more than half of the hospitality business owners surveyed who shut up shops on a Sunday said they would consider reopening if the penalty rates were reduced.

What are the proposed changes?

The PM acknowledged there would need to be widespread acceptance from workers that they would not be worse off under changes to Sunday penalty rates for them to go ahead. “If you want to get the support of workers and unions… then you inevitably would have to persuade them that in net terms they’d be better off,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

(Though how workers being paid less to do the same job would be better off hasn’t been spelt out yet.)

Carrying four plates at once is hard. Especially on a Sunday.

Some proposed changes being bandied around are:

– The Productivity Commission has recommended reducing Sunday rates to the same level as Saturday rates for the retail and hospitality sectors only.

– Liberal MPs have suggested higher rates of pay across the working week could be a possible trade-off (though employers would likely not be keen to increase the minimum wage).

– Mr Turnbull suggested incentives or credits through the tax system could be one way of compensating lower-paid workers.

Who would be affected by the changes?

It’s not 100 per cent clear at this stage, though workers in the hospitality, retail and tourism sectors are most likely to be hit, according to Fairfax Media.

Why are people pissed off about the proposal?

Most people work weekends for money, not love, slogging it out on a day they would prefer to spend with their families to pay the bills. They are the ones who will be taking a pay cut.

Penalty rates protect the sanctity of our weekends because our lives are more than just our jobs, and being compensated with extra pay for working unsociable and unpopular hours is widely considered fair game.

Try being this perky with a hangover.

The Labor Party is so riled up about the proposed changes (and believe they will be so widely disliked) they are challenging the government to take the issue to an election.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the retail and hospitality industries were on an average – along with agriculture – the lowest paid industries in the country, Business Insider reports.

“If you were to take away penalty rates from these groups, you would even depress their wages further,” he said.

Unions are also speaking out, claiming that any reductions would unfairly cut the pay packets of the lowest paid people in Australia.

It looks like the Fair Work Commission — which is currently examining the issue — has a big decision to make. And with Liberal back-benchers suggesting there may be government intervention if Fair Work doesn’t move on the issue, we could be in for a long and bumpy ride.

Do you think Sunday penalty rates should be reduced?

00:00 / ???