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Update to the General Retail Industry Award 2020

Modern Award update
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Update to the General Retail Industry Award 2020

Update to the General Retail Industry Award 2020

10 December 2020

On 24 November 2020, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (Commission) handed down their decision on junior rates in the General Retail Industry Award 2020 (Award) as part of the 4-yearly Review of Modern Awards. The result of the case is that junior rates will no longer apply in the Award at Levels 4-8. Junior rates at Levels 1-3 only have been maintained.

Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors (ABLA) on behalf of ABI and Business Australia contested the Shop, Distributive and Allied employee’s (SDA) application to remove junior rates of pay from all levels of the Award but Level 1. The SDA claimed that the award modernisation Full Bench erred in applying junior rates to all classifications given that the major pre-modern award did not provide for junior rates above Level 1, the retention of junior rates is inconsistent with the principle of equal renumeration and that Clause 17.2 failed to provide for a fair and relevant safety net.

ABLA was successful in defeating the SDA’s claims with the Commission rejecting the SDA’s various contentions and finding that it had failed to establish its case.

This outcome represents a significant win for the General Retail Industry which has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The case means that employees at Levels 1, 2 and 3 (where most junior employees are engaged) can still be engaged at junior rates.

Notwithstanding its decision to reject the SDA case, in making its own decision, the Commission noted an anomaly included in the Award whereby Level 4 employees (trade qualified) may be eligible to receive junior rates. The Commission determined that this anomaly required rectification and made subsequent changes to Levels 4 and above of the Award, removing junior rates.

It was noted by the Commission that very few junior employees are engaged at Levels 4 and above. This accords with our organisation’s understanding.

Any parties opposed to the Commission’s provisional view of setting the operative date of the changes from 1 February 2021 were invited to file their submissions by 1 December 2020 and replies to submissions by 3 December 2020.

On 4 December 2020, the Commission issued a subsequent decision to further delay the operative date of the changes after taking into consideration the various factors impacting the General Retail Industry. These factors included:

  • various public health restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic that have particularly adversely impacted the retail industry; and
  • wage cost increases due to the Award Wage Review Decision 2020 increase effective 1 February 2021 (all Group 3 Awards), final increase to evening penalty rates for casuals effective 1 March 2021, and the JobKeeper scheme scheduled to conclude on 28 March 2021.

What are the changes?

Clause 17.2 of the Award will be varied to provide that junior rates only apply to classification levels 1 to 3 (junior rates will no longer apply to level 4 and beyond).

When do the changes come into effect?

These changes will be effective from the first full pay period on or after 1 May 2021.

View the 24 November 2020 decision in full.
View the 4 December 2020 decision in full.

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