“long overdue, and we’re ready to help:” ARA congratulates Christian Porter’s announcement of review of Australia’s “ramshackle” Industrial Award system

The Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, today congratulated Commonwealth Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter on his announcement of a review of Australia’s employment Award system, saying existing arrangements were “ramshackle” and that a review was overdue.

Reiterating long-held reservations the ARA has had with the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA), under which most retail workers are employed, Mr Zimmerman said steps needed to be taken to reduce complexity, increase flexibility and to provide more clarity for retail businesses of all sizes when paying their staff correctly.

“The Award covering most retailers is cumbersome, ramshackle, and difficult to interpret,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“We congratulate Minister Porter on his announcement – which is long overdue – and say that we’re ready to help in any way we can to deliver outcomes that satisfy the needs of both employers and employees,” he added.

Mr Zimmerman that in a climate of commentary on alleged wage theft – which unfairly tarnished retailers who tried to do the right thing but made mistakes due to Award complexity – it was a priority for the ARA that any changes resulting from the review process ensured both employees and employers were no worse off.

“When Awards contain hundreds of ways to classify and pay staff – in addition to loadings or allowances payable some, all, or none of the time – the potential for errors, even for large retailers, is clear,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Mr Zimmerman noted underpayments that have attracted recent media coverage, and said simpler Awards were essential to enable retailers to pay employees properly and to remove excuses for non-compliance.

“The ARA – and its members – place the utmost importance on the appropriate payment of retail staff, and reducing complexity in determining how to correctly do so is paramount,” he said.

Mr Zimmerman said that alongside simplifying Awards, the government’s review should consider ways in which employment arrangements could be made more flexible, especially for part-time employees.

“We know many retailers who would offer part-timers more hours if the GRIA allowed them to do so at less than a week’s notice; instead, it’s all too hard, and nobody gets the extra hours or pay,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“We look forward to participating as a stakeholder in the process announced today,” Mr Zimmerman concluded.