The argument that Sunday penalty rates are a reflection of its status as a day of religious observance has been undermined by Tuesday’s 2016 Census data, showing a substantial increase in the number of Australians identifying as non-religious.
The 2016 Census data showed that Australians reporting as ‘no religion’ now constitute 30 per cent of the population, increasing from 22 per cent recorded in the last Census in 2011 and 19 per cent in 2006.
Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA) CEO John Hart said the idea that Sundays are reserved as a day for religious observance could no longer be used in the continuing debate on Sunday penalty rates.
“The current system of penalty rates was devised at a time when Sundays were reserved as a day of religion observance,” said Hart. “[The] Census data shows that for an increasing number of Australians, Sundays are no different to any other day of the week,” Hart said.
Hart also said that a reduction in Sunday penalty rates for the Restaurant Award would create additional jobs and align the sector with the expectations of the modern-day services economy.
“Consumer attitudes towards how a modern-day economy should operate on the weekend have changed drastically from the days where Sunday was a day where everyone went to church,” said Hart.
“The setting of Sunday penalty rates for the Restaurant Award needs to be updated to reflect the expectations associated with the modern-day services economy in which these businesses operate.
“The employment benefits of reducing penalty rates have already been demonstrated by R&CA’s research which showed that businesses would, on average, employ an additional 3.15 staff and open for a further 5.07 hours per day.”
Hart said that R&CA would be making further representations to the Fair Work Commission regarding the setting of Sunday penalty rates for the Restaurant Award.
Staggered reductions in Sunday penalty rates for the Hospitality and Fast Food Awards are already scheduled to commence on 1 July 2017.
“R&CA has long argued that a reduction Sunday penalties rates for the Restaurant Award is needed so that more restaurants can actually afford to open their doors on the weekend without the prospect of making a loss on that day’s trade,” said Hart.
“We will continue to mount new evidence with the Fair Work Commission demonstrating the significant positive employment benefits associated with a reduction in Sunday penalty rates for the Restaurant Award.”