Bill's Media Releases

Penalty rates for the future

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten has reaffirmed the Government’s unequivocal support for penalty rates in modern awards, including for weekends and public holidays.

 Mr Shorten said the Gillard Government would not entertain calls to reduce penalty rates in modern awards.

 “Penalty rates, additional payments to employees who work on weekends, late at night  and on public holidays, have long been a feature of the Australian workplace relations system,” Mr Shorten said.

 “Often, the people who work these less family friendly hours are among the lowest paid – workers in retail and hospitality industries. Penalty rates comprise an important proportion of their salaries.”

 “We should never forget that people who work on weekends, during Christmas, on Australia Day or Anzac Day help us all out by working on these days, while the rest of us get to spend time with our families and friends.”

 “These workers deserve to be compensated for this,” he said.

 Fair Work Australia is currently reviewing public holiday and penalty rates provisions in a number of modern awards as part of its two-year review of modern awards.

 The Government has today released its submission to the Fair Work Australia review.

 The submission is available at:

 The award modernisation process was an important process to help simplify an overly complicated system where the number of awards was reduced down to 122. 

 “The Gillard Government’s view is that protecting penalty rates and public holiday loadings in modern awards is right and fair,” Mr Shorten said.

 “Australia may have 7 day a week shopping and the like but we should not surrender the concept of weekends and getting the balance right between work and family time.”

 “The idea that you should have to trade in that family and home time for nothing is not the Labor way.”

 “Labor always sticks up for life outside of work and the idea that we work to live, not live to work,” he said.

 The Fair Work Act provides sufficient flexibility in relation to managing penalty rates. 

 Under the Fair Work Act there are a range of ways to manage penalty rates including through higher base rates of pay, annualised salaries or through an IFA, so long as the employee is better off overall.

Between 1 January 2010 to 30 June 2012, around 56 percent of  agreements made under the Fair Work Act, covering almost 60 percent of employees, contain a flexibility term which allows penalty rates to be varied by agreement between the employer and employee, so long as the employee is better off overall.

 Mr Shorten emphasised that weekends and public holidays would long remain a special time for Australian families.

 “I firmly believe that Australian workers deserve penalty rates for working extended or unsocial hours,” he said.

 “Penalty rates paid to workers on these days will never be under threat from this Labor Government.”

 “There are many ways for businesses increase their productivity and competitive edge, but just cutting wages for low paid workers is not the way to do it,” Mr Shorten said.