Many Australians are eagerly anticipating a unique concentration of public holidays in coming days, which creates an opportunity for many workers to enjoy extended periods away from their jobs. The timing of the Easter holiday means that Easter Monday falls in the same work week as ANZAC day. Therefore, there is a ten-day period – stretching from Good Friday through Sunday, 28 April – during which many employees only have to work three days. Many Australians are now arranging to take those three days off: creating an extended 10-day holiday for the “price” of just three days leave.
Of course, many other Australians will be required to work during this period, and so for them the appeal of this coming period is diminished. Adding insult to injury, however, is the fact that their compensation for working during this period is being significantly reduced as a result on ongoing reductions in penalty rates for Sunday and public holiday work in the retail, accommodation, and food and beverage industries. As other Australians are enjoying an extra holiday season, people working in these sectors will receive pay packets substantially smaller than they would have been.
This briefing note estimates the combined income losses experienced by workers in the broader retail and accommodation/food & beverage sectors over the coming 10-day period, due to reductions in penalty rates for Sundays and public holidays imposed by the Fair Work Commission beginning in 2017. The reduction in penalties for public holidays (by an amount equal to 25% of base wages for most workers in these sectors) was fully implemented on 1 July, 2017. The reduction in penalty rates for Sunday work is still being phased in: a third reduction in the rate will occur on 1 July this year. And for workers in industries covered by the General Retail and Pharmacy awards, another reduction will occur on 1 July, 2020.