Turnbull hints at changes to penalty rates

by Chloe Taylor07 Oct 2015
Malcolm Turnbull has said that while changes to penalty rates are likely to go ahead, adjustments would still need to be supported by the workforce.

Speaking to 3AW, the Prime Minister indicated that one such change could be the differences in penalty rates between Saturdays and Sundays.

“The only reason they're different, I assume, is history,” Turnbull said. “I think over time you will see a move to a more flexible workplace.”

He added that if the government sought to make any changes, it would also want to gain support from both employers and their staff.

“You do have unions and workers who are naturally reluctant to give up benefits that they have,” he acknowledged.

“Any reform has got to be able to demonstrate that people are not going to be worse off.”

Last month, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told the ABC that there was no suggestion that penalty rates would be removed “at the moment”.

She said that the issue was being looked into by the Productivity Commission alongside Fair Work Australia.

Penalty rates were also addressed in the Productivity Commission's workplace relations inquiry.

In August, the commission released a draft report that stated penalty rates were becoming increasingly controversial as demand for weekend services continued to grow.

“The question is then whether regulated weekend penalty rates are set at the ‘right’ level,” the report said.

“The Productivity Commission recommends that Sunday rates in the hospitality, entertainment, retailing, restaurants and cafes industries should be brought into line with Saturday rates.”

In August, the Business Council of Australia suggested that the government needed to rethink its “overly complex” workplace framework.

“To tell companies ... that to reorient their business models to stay profitable and keep people in jobs they have to work around an overly complex, conflict driven system is simply not a modern, forward looking proposition,” said CEO Jennifer Westacott.

“The idea that we can't deal with it because we can't predict the future is precisely why we should be tackling this. The more rigid the system, the less capacity we have to adjust to the unknown.

“My call to action … is for each of you to think about how we tackle this important conversation.”

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