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Retailers haggle for a better modern award

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On 1 January 2010, the modern General Retail Industry Award 2010 (‘the modern Retail Award’) commenced operation to the trepidation of retailers Australia-wide. In response to concerns held by retailers, a number of parties sought variations to the modern Retail Award to address terms and conditions considered to unduly limit the ability of retailers to optimally utilise employees in accordance with their business needs. The full bench of Fair Work Australia has recently handed down its decision on variations to be adopted.

Employer associations seeking variations to the modern Retail Award had sought variations to better reflect the modern Australian trading environment. In makings its decision to vary the modern Retail Award however, Fair Work Australia has stated that it primarily had regard to the “critical mass” of provisions and terms contained within existing retail awards and NAPSAs. Variations sought which did not accord with existing award provisions were accordingly generally refused.

Despite this, Fair Work Australia did recognise the need to make variations to provide retailers with greater flexibility in their workplace practices. These variations include:

  • Reclassification of department and shop managers within the 8 level classification structure to reflect differing levels of supervision and responsibility
  • The ability for part time employees to work additional hours at their ordinary rate of pay provided such hours do not exceed 38, are within the spread of hours and are agreed in writing
  • An extension of the spread of hours for shops that normally trade after 9.00pm to enable employees to work ordinary hours without the payment of overtime until 11.00pm
  • Amendment of Sunday penalties for casual employees to provide that permanent and casual employees are all paid the same 200% penalty for work performed on a Sunday
  • Limitation of the uniform allowance to provide that employees will be paid a single uniform allowance per shift or per week, and not per garment

Retailers should note that existing pre-31 December 2009 base rates of pay and penalty rates continue to operate until 1 July 2010 pursuant to transitional provisions within the Retail Award. Please see our previous article for further information on these transitional provisions.

A copy of the modern Retail Award as amended is available here.

The modern Retail Award applies to most retailers nationally in the absence of a registered enterprise agreement. MST has extensive experience in preparing flexible enterprise agreements which enable retailers to structure their workplace practices around their business requirements.

For further information, please contact one of our Retail lawyers.

Author: Katie Sweatman