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Penalty rates – who really gets penalised?

There’s been growing consternation among many retailers and hospitality business owners over the decision to designate Easter Sunday and Grand Final eve Friday as Public Holidays.

Many shops, restaurants and bars hit customers with a surcharge of up to 15% on Easter weekend to cover the additional wage costs. Worse still, some closed their doors completely as they felt the additional penalty rates wouldn’t make it financially viable.

So, not only did some customers cop higher prices to pay for this extra cost to SMEs, many didn’t get to shop/eat/drink at their preferred business as they shut up shop completely.

Which begs the question: who really gets penalised by penalty rates?


The answer is: no one wins.

  • Employers get more costs forced upon them – many choose not to open as the extra cost makes it uneconomical
  • Workers often lose out on shifts because the employer chooses not to open (or may get less hours due to increased cost)
  • Consumers often have to pay a surcharge, or have the inconvenience of their preferred business not opening
  • What about tourists who visit this world-renowned city only to find many of the shops and eateries that give it its flavour are closed, or really costly?


The other question: why were these days made ‘Public Holidays’ in the first place?

Daniel Andrews maintains the purpose for Easter Sunday was to compensate workers for missing out on spending the day with their families.

But what compensation is there if their hours are cut in order to manage costs? Or worse, their employer decides not to open at all?

Deep down, is this all for a religious reason? I’m all for religious freedom, but it gets harder and harder to argue for the promotion of one religion over all others in this day and age of multiculturalism and secularism.

(BTW, is this the same reason we don’t play footy on Good Friday? I still can’t for the life of me work that one out…)

The other new public holiday this year is Grand Final Eve. It’s designed to create a ‘festival’ feel during Grand Final week. Nice idea, but I worry the same issues will rear their heads again.

Finally, I worry about adding further complexity to the range of awards and pay rates for different types of workers – casual employees, junior employees, trainees and apprentices – before you even factor in penalty rates.

Small business owners have it tough enough without additional costs like these. Workers need to be protected… but they’re inadvertently being harmed by business owners cutting hours or not opening at all.

Let’s give SMEs – the biggest employers in the country – a break.


I’d love your feedback on these questions:


  • Did you open your doors this weekend – and did you pass on a surcharge to customers?
  • Did you decide not to open as it would be uneconomical?
  • What will you do on Grand Final Eve?



  • Did you miss out on shifts due to the extra cost of penalty rates?
  • Do you think it’s important to compensate you more for missing out on spending Easter Sunday with your family?



  • Did you have to pay a surcharge this weekend? Would you happily pay it, or would you go elsewhere to avoid it?
  • Were your long weekend plans affected by businesses not being open this weekend?
  • Would you pay a surcharge on Grand Final Eve?