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Employment relations overview 2017: what’s in store for retailers?

In this, our first issue of 2017, the ARA looks at what’s in store for retailers in the coming year. What about a new category of leave – 10 days paid ‘domestic violence leave’? Think it’s just rumour? Wrong; the Fair Work Commission is considering it!

The New Year is upon us and, once again, it’s time to prepare for what is shaping up to be another big year for the retail industry. So, what are the key employment issues that ARA members should be aware of in 2017?

1. Conclusion of the Modern Award Review process

The ARA devoted significant time and resources in 2016 towards the Modern Award Review, fighting the case for an employment relations framework which enables members to improve efficiency and increase their competiveness.

The four-yearly Modern Award Review undertaken by the Fair Work Commission is an enormous task, and it is fair to say that the process has dragged on far longer than was initially anticipated. While the decision to insert award provisions for the cashing out of annual leave was welcomed, the ARA continues to argue the case for a reduction in weekend penalty rates.

Paid family and domestic violence leave is another key issue being considered by the Fair Work Commission as part of the Modern Award Review process. The ACTU and others have proposed an additional entitlement of 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave for those persons experiencing family or domestic violence.

The ARA considers domestic and family violence to be a serious issue

for the Australian community. However, the Association also recognises that not all businesses have the capacity to honour a new category of leave. The ARA has therefore decided to support the submissions of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. After seeking feedback from the members of the Association, we have found that retailers typically work sensitively with employees who might be experiencing domestic violence, often voluntarily granting time off work, access to leave and other arrangements. Some retailers even have formal arrangements to support their employees impacted by domestic violence.

It is expected that 2017 will see the conclusion of the Modern Award Review process with the ARA continuing to provide its members with regular updates in relation to any significant developments.

2. Fair Work Ombudsman set to receive increased powers

Wage scandals featured heavily in 2016, with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) taking significant steps to ensure compliance with Australia’s workplace laws. We are again reminding retailers to get their houses in order before the Ombudsman comes knocking.

The FWO continues to push the boundaries of the accessorial liability provisions of the Fair Work Act. This comes as no surprise with the Fair Work Ombudsman herself, Ms Natalie James, having publicly expressed her view that such prosecutions are crucial in reinforcing the roles and responsibilities of key personnel within an organisation. HR Advisors, managers, directors, accountants and CFOs have all been caught by the accessorial liability provisions and personally held liable for their involvement in workplace breaches. This means that if you knowingly took part in a breach of workplace laws, you can be found personally liable for such breach, and are prevented from hiding behind the ‘corporate veil’ of the organisation in an attempt to avoid personal liability.

3. Be prepared for the annual wage increase

Further, retailers are reminded to prepare for a wage increase toward the middle of the calendar year.

The Fair Work Commission is currently conducting its annual review of award wages with its decision expected to be handed down around mid-June 2017. The annual wage increase is generally between 2-3% and, as is consistent with past practice, any wage increase is expected to become payable from the first full pay period in July 2017.


About the author

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Russell Zimmerman

Russell became a Councillor of the Australian Retailers Association, New South Wales Division in 1995. He held the position of President of the NSW State Division from 2001-03. From 1997 he held the position of state delegate to the Australian Retailers Association National Council. He served as President of the Australian Retailers Association National Council from 2003-04.

Being involved in a small business Russell brings a closer perspective of day to day issues as he is in close contact with staff and customers and also deals with the managerial issues of operating and financing a Small Medium Enterprise.

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