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FWA cut to student shift requirements gets business backing

Monday, 20 June 2011 | By Michelle Hammond

Industry groups have welcomed Fair Work Australia’s decision to reduce the minimum shift requirements to 1.5 hours for secondary students, saying the ruling will save jobs and stop business owners from breaking the rules.

 

The move follows repeated attempts by retail groups to change restrictions to afterschool hours for secondary school students.

 

In December last year, the National Retail Association approached FWA for the third time in a bid to cut the minimum three-hour shift for casual retail workers.

 

The NRA’s first application was lost, while the second application was rejected in July.

 

However, the previous FWA decision didn’t close the door completely on the issue, saying that while it couldn’t approve a blanket reduction in the minimum casual worker shift from three hours to two hours, an application specific to student workers would be looked at differently.

 

This prompted the NRA to file a very narrow application, requesting the minimum shift for student casuals in a retail environment be reduced from three hours to 1.5 hours, but only for afterschool work.

 

FWA handed down its decision earlier today, much to the delight of retail bodies and small business groups.

 

According to Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, school students and retailers alike would applaud the decision.

 

“Fair Work Australia has made a logical decision that will overturn limitations in the modern award that didn’t take into account the hours available between school finishing times and close of business,” Zimmerman said in a statement.

 

“The retail industry has traditionally been a willing contributor to giving school students their start in the workforce… Retailers take this social responsibility seriously and today retailers will be genuinely delighted to take on that role again.”

 

“This is a win-win for students and retailers.  It’s just a pity this decision wasn’t made earlier.”

 

Zimmerman said retailers and industry associations have been advocating for this ruling since March last year.

 

“Almost one year on, school students and retailers both have a workable outcome,” he said.

 

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, also welcomed the move, saying businesspeople would no longer be forced to break the rules.

 

“Hopefully, this is a sign that Fair Work Australia has finally connected with the small business community and understands what we need – it’s the first decision in a long time that has acknowledged our needs,” he says.