The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) supports this week’s decision by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to reduce Sunday penalty rates for employees in the retail and hospitality industries from double time to time and a half.
During the past two years the ARA, Master Grocers Association and Franchise Council of Australia along with many national retailers have been working with the FWC to achieve the reduced Sunday rates under the General Retail Industry Award 2010.
ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman says the association and its members welcome the decision.
“Reducing these rates from double time to time and a half will increase retail growth nationally and reduce the unemployment rate in Australia,” he said.
What the decision means for pharmacy is that 7am-9pm Sunday penalty rates for full- and part-time pharmacy employees will be reduced from 200 per cent to 150 per cent, and for casuals from 225 per cent to 175 per cent. The rates for public holidays have been reduced from 250 per cent to 225 per cent for full- and part-time pharmacy employees, and from 275 per cent to 250 per cent for casuals.
While the Pharmacy Guild of Australia welcomes the move, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) and Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) say this pay cut will take a big toll on health professionals and undermine the vital service pharmacists provide to the community every day of the week.
According to the PSA, pharmacy owners paying their employee pharmacists above-award rates should continue to do so.
PSA National President Joe Demarte, acknowledging the many community pharmacy owners around Australia that pay their pharmacists and staff well above award rates, says he hopes the FWC ruling will not affect this.
“It must be remembered that community pharmacies are not like other retail settings,” he said. “Pharmacists are health professionals and their contribution needs to be recognised and remunerated in a different way to that of other retail workers.”
PPA President Geoff March says that, as a result of the ruling, “each year, employee pharmacists will be thousands of dollars worse off”.
“The decision means that minimum pay for a base-grade pharmacist working on Sundays will be reduced to $31.80 per hour, which is the rate paid for work on a Saturday,” he said. “Work on public holidays currently paid at $63.60 per hour will be reduced by 25 per cent.”
A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild says the organisation welcomes the decision as a sensible way forward that balances the interests of patients, pharmacy staff and community pharmacy small businesses.
“It has never been in anyone’s interest for pharmacies to be unable to open on Sundays or public holidays,” the spokesperson said.
“This decision will help pharmacies to meet community expectations that they will be able to access vital health services seven days a week.”
Business expert and partner at Pitcher Pharmacy Services, Mark Nicholson, says that, at a broader level, the Australian consumer will clearly benefit from the flow-on effect of more pharmacies being able to open, or open longer, on week-ends.
“Community social and economic benefits also flow, with pharmacies able to better attend to the healthcare needs of consumers,” he said.
“In the medium to long term, pharmacy employees benefit from more employment hours and greater business stability for their employer. Accordingly, we view this announcement as a positive for all pharmacy stakeholders.”