Axe hangs over penalty rates

Axe hangs over penalty rates
Penalty rates for businesses such as restaurants are under review.

Pressure is mounting for a change to penalty rates, with State Minister for Small Business Joe Francis believing it is time to look at scrapping the higher hourly rates for up to 100,000 people.

Mr Francis said small businesses were suffering under the wage schedule, which usually doubled wages for staff on Sundays. He said all options should be considered, including reduced penalties or a flat hourly rate that did not change at weekends or after hours.

His comments echo concerns about weekend, public holiday and overtime penalties raised by Premier Colin Barnett and former treasurer Christian Porter.

"My belief is that Christian and the Premier were on the money - it's something that has to be looked at," Mr Francis said. "A review should look at one standard flat rate. You should consider that as part of the equation."

He said a change would improve productivity.

"Anything you can do to increase the profitability of small business, they generally put back into their business, and they will grow from a small to a big business," Mr Francis said.

The State Government said a year ago it was reviewing the industrial system in a move that would consider increasing or decreasing basic wages in 200 awards, apprenticeships, penalty rates and allowances. A change in rates would affect more than 100,000 workers in the private industrial system, including retail and hospitality workers employed by unincorporated bodies, sole traders and partnerships.

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said yesterday there was no plan to "abolish penalty rates for those working after hours".

It is uncertain whether there are any penalty cuts on the cards after the year-long review. The WA Industrial Relations Commission would be responsible for implementing any changes, in conjunction with employer groups and unions.

Small Business Commissioner David Eaton said there had been a rise in calls for a change.

UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat said penalties were important for low-paid workers in retail and hospitality.

"A cut to pay for low-income people just means they have to work longer, and more unsocial hours of work, just to keep their standard of living," she said.