Nick Didn't Cut Penalty Rates


In 2017, Nick and NXT (Nick Xenophon Team) voted for cuts to penalty rates.


Nick and NXT voted against cutting penalty rates in 2017.

The confusion comes from Nick's avid support for local small businesses. As a Senator, Nick was approached by many small business owners who couldn't afford to roster employees on weekends due to the 150% and 200% loading under penalty rates.

To help ease the burden on small business and support local job creation, Nick introduced a bill to the Senate in 2012 called the Fair Work Amendment (Small Business— Penalty Rates Exemption) Bill 2012 (the Bill), which lapsed in 2013.

The Bill amended the Fair Work Act 2009 to exclude employers in the restaurant and catering or retail industries, that employ fewer than 20 full-time equivalent staff, from being required to pay penalty rates under an existing or future modern award, unless an employee has worked more than ten hours in a 24-hour period, or more than 38 hours in a week.

However, 2017 saw a time of low-wage growth and so cutting penalty rates of low-income workers would have had a devastating effect on said workers. Nick has gone on record, saying: “I’ll own up to this being a backflip or even somersault because you can’t have individual workers being worse off." As a result, Nick and NXT voted against cuts to penalty rates (as seen here).

The Nick Xenophon Team supported Labor's Bill to restore penalty rates in 2017 through the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Take-Home Pay) Bill 2017. It passed the Senate on 30 March 2017, with 37 votes to 26 including all of the Nick Xenophon Team Senators voting in support of the Bill (the voting record can be found here).

While Nick's position on penalty rates has had to adapt to changing levels of wage growth, he always has, and will continue to support local business by not supporting the deregulation of shop trading hours in SA as it would hurt small, independent retailers (see: Retail Shopping Hours Policy).

SA-BEST and NXT believe, as a general principle, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) should determine pay and conditions, including penalty rates. However, SA-BEST and NXT do not believe it is fair that in a time of low wage growth workers should have their pay rates cut.

That is why NXT disagrees with the decision of the FWC to reduce penalty rates and support law reform to prevent penalty rates being cut by the FWC. NXT supports legislative change to protect penalty rates to prevent employees receiving penalty rates that are lower than the rates specified in the relevant Modern Award.

NXT initiated a Senate Inquiry into penalty rates to examine why some big businesses have been paying workers a lot less for weekend penalty rates than small businesses. More information about this inquiry can be found here.

More Details:

(16 Aug 2012) Fair Work Amendment (Small Business—Penalty Rates Exemption) Bill 2012

(16 Aug 2012) Fair Work Amendment (Small Business —Penalty Rates Exemption) Bill 2012 Second Reading

(27 Jun 2013) Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013

(27 Jun 2013) Journals of the Senate

(27 Jun 2013) Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 Second Reading

(16 Sep 2015) Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 Second Reading

(30 Mar 2017) Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Take-Home Pay) Bill 2017

(29-30 Mar 2017) Journals of the Senate

(4 Sep 2017) Journals of The Senate

(4 Oct 2017) Senate Inquiry into Penalty Rates

(2017-2018) Retail Shopping Hours Policy


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