The National Retail Association has declared today’s record fine for a 7-Eleven store to be a double-edged sword for small businesses, with the potential to help those who do the right thing but also highlighting the complexity of the workplace relations system.
NRA Acting CEO Ian Winterburn made the comments after the operators of a Brisbane 7-Eleven store were fined more than $400,000 in the Federal Circuit Court for underpaying 12 workers a total of $82,000.
Mr Winterburn said the overwhelming majority of employers in the retail sector tried very hard to meet all their obligations to their employees, and struggled to compete when a small number of business owners failed to do the right thing.
“There’s no doubt that this is a highly complex area of regulation, and we know from experience that many small business owners struggle to understand their obligations and comply with the volumes of workplace law,” Mr Winterburn said.
“So it’s certainly frustrating for those who do the right thing and ensure they pay their employees all their entitlements when others do not comply and are able to gain a market advantage for themselves as a result.
“In that sense, retailers will welcome the moves to ensure there is a level playing field.
“At the same time, however, this highlights just how complex the employment landscape is for retailers, and why many of them simply opt to close their doors or only use family members behind the counter at times when penalty rates may apply.
“So while we by no means condone underpayment of staff, we understand that this is a difficult area for small business.
“That’s why the NRA urges business owners to seek advice if they are in any doubt about their legal responsibilities in relation to wages and conditions for their employees.”