Posted: 26 Oct. 2021 5 min. read

Revived for retail – part time flexibility

Retail has been impacted big time by COVID. Retail workers became essential workers during COVID. At times they couldn’t keep up with demand, like the great toilet paper crisis or the urgent need for sourdough starter kits. It is currently Australia’s second largest employing industry, accounting for a whopping 10.2% of the Australian workforce*.

But during the early days of COVID, many retailers had a tough choice to make for their part-time workforce who wanted to work more hours: offer them more hours but cough up expensive overtime rates, or instead offer extra hours to more industrially flexible workers like casuals.

We were told the way out of this recession is to spend our way out, but our industrial relations system was making it complex and expensive to use part-timers to meet consumers’ demand.

But, I have good news.

As of 1 July 2021, the General Retail Industry Award has more flexibilities for part-time workers. It’s a result of the SDA, AWU and MGA’s joint submission from late February 2021. The submission focused on the need for more flexibility for part-time retail employees and employers.

Now to make sense of the two big changes, known as ‘Schedule I’.

1. It’ll be easier to temporarily change part-time employee’s hours without paying extra

Part-time employees working more than 9 hours per week can temporarily increase their hours (up to 38 per week) with less notice and no additional cost.

A couple of call outs:

  • This is only for temporary changes i.e. existing notice periods apply for permanent roster changes to their agreed hours, 
  • The change to hours still needs to be in writing (text message and email are sufficient)
  • The change to hours needs to be made before the end of a shift or before the variation takes effect.

2. Keep track of temporary changes to part-time employee’s hours

Every 12 months, if a part-time employee’s regular work pattern is more than their part-time agreement they can request their part-time agreement be updated. For example, if an employee has a part-time agreement to work 20 hours per week, and over 12 months works an average of 30 hours per week, they can request their agreement be updated to 30 hours. This would mean they are guaranteed to be paid at least 30 hours per week.

What now?

If you employ part-time staff under the General Retail Industry Award, make sure you have your employees’ work hours and part-time agreements in order.

If you make any temporary changes to part-time employee’s hours, make sure you document them and keep them available for annual review.

And if you don’t employ part-time staff under the General Retail Industry Award, continue to watch this space. Flexibility is becoming more pronounced on the industrial relations agenda and changes like this can be seedlings to even bigger, better things.

For more information, the full determination can be read here.

*ABS Labour Market Information Portal, April 2021

More about the author

Natalie James

Natalie James

Partner, Risk Advisory

Natalie James is a Partner in Deloitte’s Regulatory and Risk Insights practice. She leads Deloitte’s Workplace Integrity Team working with businesses to enhance their workplace integrity and ensure compliance with work laws. She brings deep expertise and insight to helping companies identify and resolve compliance risks, reduce complexity and build fit for purpose, compliant and sustainable workplace practices. Natalie was the Fair Work Ombudsman, leading Australia’s national workplace relations regulator, from July 2013 to July 2018. Prior to that she led the development of work laws as Chief Counsel for the Commonwealth Government. Natalie has a Bachelor of Arts Law and a Masters in Law (Commercial – Labour Law).