Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm has introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Family First Senator Bob Day, to remove penalty rates on weekends.
The bill is intended to allow small businesses (defined as comprising fewer than 20 employees) in the restaurant and catering, retail and hospitality industries to operate viably and employ adequate staff numbers, especially on weekends.
It states that for small business in the specified industries, modern awards cannot require penalty rates to apply unless at least one of three conditions are met: the work is in addition to 10 hours of work in a day, is on a public holiday, or is on a weekend and in addition to 38 hours of work over a seven-day period.
The bill’s introduction coincides with the release of a draft report from the Productivity Commission recommending that the highest weekend penalty rates be removed to create jobs and boost Australia’s economy.
Senator Leyonhjelm says it is no surprise the report shows that removing the highest penalty rates means more people will be employed.
“Many businesses report it is not worth opening on weekends because of penalty rates,” he said. “This disadvantages workers. Our bill will give workers greater choice about when they want to work, and employers will still be allowed to offer penalty rates if they so wish.”
Senator Day said the modern global economy meant the workplace regulation system needed a major upgrade.
“If David and I succeed in giving people the freedom to decide for themselves what pay rates they will work for, then thousands of jobs will be created across Australia,” he said. “We hope that this will be a first step towards modernising workplace regulation to give employees the freedom they expect and need to get a job.”