The Office of the Australian Small Business Commissioner in its submission has called for the full adult wage to be paid from the age of 18. It questions the rationale behind the IR system “deeming adulthood to commence at 21” and calls for the alignment of “the adult age in the workplace relations system with the legal adult age in Australia”.
This argument coincides with one that ‘Joe Average’ has been making for years, perhaps as early as the Vietnam War where young Australians at 18 were deemed old enough to fight and possibly die for their country. The ASBC maintains that “For all other purposes, an adolescent becomes an adult at the age of 18 and bears the responsibilities associated with this, such as voting and consequences for breaching the justice system.”
It is Workwise’s view that the current Award system in this country continues to fall behind the reality of modern demands for access to services 7 days per week and remains rooted in 1950’s thinking in many areas such as penalty rate applications. The ASBC submission also refers to the administrative complexity facing small businesses that must deal with 120 modern awards, each containing a range of positions and, within each position, a range of classifications. The ASBC maintains that removing lower pay levels for 18, 19 and 20 year olds across modern awards would simplify the wages system.
In Workwise’s opinion, it is clear that the original concept that a single ‘industry based’ Award would apply to a business after modernisation of the pre-reform Awards has failed, with the result that many businesses are still bound by multiple Awards with differing requirements in relation to their individual pay rates, penalty and overtime rates of pay for employees amongst other matters.
The ASBC submission also questions the continuing rationale for penalty rates, given that seven-day trading is now the norm in many sectors. “……………… the unsociable hours argument for penalty rates is no longer valid,” and goes on to say that the rapid growth of international online retailing raises further questions about the relevance of penalty rates. “To improve economic prosperity and productivity in Australia, the review could consider if the policy rationale behind existing penalty rates remains valid and whether the current rates facilitate or hinder business employment,” it says.
The submission refers to the New Zealand model where “penalty rates are 1.5 times the standard wages on public holidays” (employees must also be given a day in lieu) “and are optional on weekends”.