Retailers Push For Staff Flexibility

Published July 11, 2019 (last updated July 23, 2020) -

Retail groups are calling for greater flexibility to offer part-time staff extra hours at short notice without incurring overtime payments as the Morrison government announced reviews Australian workplace laws.Senior Employment Relations Adviser at Employsure, Michael Wilkinson says the push for flexibility in retail is a result of, “changing customer demands for convenience and round the clock access.”In addition, Mr Wilkinson said: “Australia’s changing demographics have similar impacts upon the category. Issues such as housing affordability, increased multiculturalism and general aging population, pose specific challenges to retailers, who are forced to adapt. By promoting customer service and corresponding staffing needs, retailers may detect these trends and, if necessary, adapt prior to experiencing financial downturn as a result of changes.”Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter is reviewing a wide range of industrial laws, including the definition of casual employment and unfair dismissal rules.

The news comes in the wake of Ed Mallett, Managing Director of Employsure, Australia’s leading employment adviser for SMEs, welcoming the announcement of industrial relations reform.

“The federal government’s intention to review the workplace relations system is encouraging for the 24,000 small businesses we represent across Australia,” Mallett said.

“The overwhelming view among our small business clients is the legislation is far too complicated, particularly for those with less than 20 employees and no expert HR or legal departments.

“We have already identified a number of simple steps to tackle the overly complex industrial relations system for small businesses that would make a real difference to the sector.

“A key priority should be a review of the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code, to ensure there are adequate provisions to protect small business employers from an unfair dismissal claim when they have made every effort to do the right thing.

“The current protections in place are a decade old this July, and the nature of the work has evolved. The review of rules governing dismissals need urgent review,” he said.

Australian Retailers’ Association boss Russell Zimmerman identified employment inflexibility as a key reform area, saying: “If you’re employing somebody on a part-time basis, if you want to increase their hours you’ve got to give them one week’s notice in writing…That is just not feasible in today’s retail landscape,” he said.

Under the proposal, employers would not be able to reduce workers’ shifts and employees would remain free to turn down hours above their part-time requirements.

“It’s challenging for retailers to have certainty about their cashflow and customer patterns, so they should have a degree of flexibility when it comes to their staffing needs,” Mr Wilkinson said.

The push for reform will be explored in Mr Porter’s review of workplace laws – expected to take between six and nine months.

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