Penalty Rates Facts - ACTU Australian Unions

In February 2017, the Fair Work Commission announced a significant series of cuts to penalty rates for weekend and public holiday penalty rates for workers in hospitality, fast food, retail and pharmacy.

The cuts affect workers' pay on Sundays and public holidays, including Christmas and Easter Sunday. 

The cuts come at a time where record low wage growth and a rising cost of living leaves working people and their families extremely vulnerable to reductions in their take-home pay. Right now, Australians need a pay rise – not a pay cut.

In Australia, our pay and conditions aren’t supposed to go backwards. Broken rules led to the Fair Work Commission proposing these cuts. Now Parliament has the chance to set new rules to block these cuts, protecting low-paid workers. 


Top 5 Penalty Rate Facts:


1. The cuts are deeply unpopular - and the community didn't ask for them

Profits shot up 20% in the last year, while wage increases slowed to a crawl at 1.8%. Australians know workers and our families need a pay rise - that’s why 81% of Australians support penalty rates – and almost two thirds of the community believe those who give up their Sundays should be paid more.

Upwards of 5,900 Australians submitted to Fair Work on the proposed cuts, and over 95% of those were against the cuts.

Source: Essential Poll January 2015, January 2017, Fair Work Commission - Summary of Decision 23 February 2017

2. The cuts hit women hardest 

Women will bear the brunt of these devastating cuts. Women make up 54.7% of accommodation and food services workers, and 54.6% of retail workers are women. Women are also signi cantly more likely than men to be working in part-time roles in sectors hit by cuts to penalty rates.

Cutting the pay of workers in this industry is the worst thing the Government could do to worsen the gender pay gap.

Source: ABS labour force gures from 2016 

3. The cuts will hurt regional economies most

If workers take a pay cut, regional communities will be hit hardest. The McKell Institute estimates workers in rural and regional areas alone could lose between 370 and 690 million dollars. That’s money that won’t go to local stores, tradespeople and other businesses. 

4. Big business is set to make millions off of the cuts 

Harvey Norman alone will pocket $900,000 of workers' wages from the change. 

5. The pay cuts won’t create jobs

There’s no evidence cutting the wages of the lowest paid will create a single job. Workers will simply take on more shifts to make ends meet.

Source: McKell Institute, February 2017