Operators hit with new penalty rates over Christmas

Queensland operators that roster on staff over Christmas and New Year will need to pay four lots of penalty rates

Operators hit with new penalty rates over Christmas
Operators hit with new penalty rates over Christmas
By Brad Gardner | October 8, 2010

Queensland trucking operators that roster staff on Christmas and New Year will need to pay four lots of penalty rates due to reforms introduced by the Bligh Government.

The Government yesterday amended the Holidays Act for those required to work on Christmas and New Year, which both fall on Saturday this year.

Traditionally, a public holiday which fell on Saturday could be substituted for a day during the week. Penalty rates only applied to the substituted day, meaning workers rostered on a Saturday were not paid at 2.5 times their rate.

Under the changes, businesses will now need to pay penalty rates on December 25 and 28 and January 1 and 3. The changes bring Queensland into line with Western Australia, NSW and Victoria.

Despite supporting the amendment, the LNP raised concerns of the effect four lots of penalty rates would have on small businesses.

"Potentially the big losers of the fallout of this will be business—the employers—and in particular small business who always struggle to absorb additional costs where no revenue is applied," LNP MP Jarrod Bleijie says.

"This addition will have a negative impact to a certain extent on business owners. They will be paying penalty rates for two additional days."

However, Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick says businesses will incur costs about once every seven years because Christmas and New Year will not always fall on a Saturday.

It is unclear how much the changes will cost industry, but Dick says the public sector will fork out $19 million in penalty rates.

"We make no apologies for the public sector workers in this state being paid appropriate compensation for being away from their families on some of the most special days in the year," he says.

"You would have to be channelling the original Christmas Grinch, Ebenezer Scrooge, to object to workers being paid their proper entitlements on public holidays."

The Government is planning to introduce more amendments in 2011 to make the changes permanent for subsequent years.

Independent MP Peter Wellington says it is fair and reasonable for workers to be paid penalty rates while most people enjoy the Christmas and New Year with their families.

"Without the amendment…workers who are required to work on Christmas Day will not receive penalty rates for doing so and will be paid ordinary rates for working on a Saturday," he says.

ALP MP Mary-Anne O’Neill says there are a number of industries operating seven days a week where employees will need to work on the public holidays.

"A penalty rate of double time and a half is far more fair and appropriate for workers who want or are required to work on these two important days," she says.

The Government expects the changes will benefit employees across a number of sectors, including mining, retail, hospitality, tourism and emergency services.

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