The AHA and industry bodies have largely embraced the Productivity Commission’s draft report recommending overhaul of penalty rates in hospitality and retail, and a restructured Fair Work Commission.

Stephen Ferguson, AHA National CEO
Stephen Ferguson, AHA National CEO

Speaking with PubTIC, AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson was pleased with the Productivity Commissions (PC) findings and acknowledgement of a system in need of repair, not replacement.

“We are generally very happy with nearly all of the issues highlighted by the review,” said Ferguson.

“We submitted a detailed [50-page] report to the Commission on behalf of our members, Tourism Accommodation Australia and the Accommodation Association of Australia, and while some recommendations don’t go as far as we would have liked, they are nonetheless a definite step in the right direction.”

The major points of the PC ‘draft’ report – yet to be adopted or even recognised by the Federal Government – centre on adjustments to penalty rates, public holidays and unfair dismissal for non-essential services, such as hospitality and retail.

PC chair Peter Harris specified that a shift in societal norms has brought about a need for change, and evening and night shifts are greater lifestyle challenges than weekend work. PC recognises that labour “is not just an ordinary input” and that policies are affected by “ethical and community norms”.

On this basis the PC recommends Sunday penalty rates be revised to be the same as Saturdays.

The independent commission also spoke of the disparity between State and Federal public holidays and employers’ disposition complying with two systems, in a definite reference to Victoria’s recently announced ‘Grand Final Eve’ vacation.

“Employers should not be required to pay under the National Employment Standards beyond current numbers of such holidays and there are also ways to have some additional flexibility about when to take a public holiday, to swap one date for another if employees and employers agree,” said Harris.

There was also call for the Fair Work Commission to be “strengthened” through reform – moving away from “history and precedent” as a substitute for research and analysis, and ridding itself of the burden of red tape on employers, who can end up paying compensation to sacked employees through “simple process mistakes”.

The AHA lauds a move to fine-tune the process through a greater focus on form not function.

“In many instances businesses pay ‘go away’ money, rather than incur Commission costs,” cites Ferguson.

“The Fair Work Commission needs to ensure procedure doesn’t overcome substance.”

Submissions on the PC report are open until Friday, 18 September, 2015.

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