This week the SDA and ACTU have applied to the Fair Work Commission to abolish junior pay rates for half a million young workers.  The application seeks to apply the full Adult (20yo/21yo) rate to all  workers over the age of 18 years.  At the same time the SDA is pushing for a standard 5 weeks annual leave and a four day work week.

No more junior rates

The ACTU said  that junior rates  in many awards, including retail and hospitality were a “massive pay cut” for young people.

“Despite doing the same job, a 21-year-old waitress will get paid $29.04 an hour while her 18-year-old co-worker will get paid just $16.26 per hour.   There is no way this is fair.

“An 18-year-old retail worker will need to work more than 50 hours a week to earn a full-time adult wage.

“By comparison, in New Zealand, workers aged 16 to 19 earn 80% of the minimum wage for the first 6 months in a job, before then progressing to the full rate. In Canada, nearly all provinces have no youth rates of pay. In Alberta and Ontario, students under the age of 18 still get between 85% to 95% of the full minimum wage.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus decried the junior pay rates noting “Young people don’t get discounts on their rent or youth grocery bills, so why should they get youth wages? Eighteen-year-olds have the same social and legal responsibilities as other adults and deserve the same minimum pay rates.”

While SDA Secretary Gerard Dwyer exclaimed “In the eyes of the law, 18, 19 and 20-year-olds are adults.  They can vote, drink alcohol and join the army – why are they paid as juniors?  If you’re of adult age, you should be paid an adult wage.”

Business groups have blasted the application, labelling it as “unrealistic” and “catastrophic” with ACCIs David Alexander calling it “is another example of the usual ignorance of economics from unions.  Having no junior pay rates would make hiring young people far less attractive to businesses.  Taking on a worker with minimal experience requires extra risk and extra effort – they do not have the work or life experience that older adults have.  This would be catastrophic for young workers, especially in retail, who would struggle to get a start in the workplace”.

ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski explains that “in the fuel wholesale, transport and retail industries junior rates apply to all workers who are under 21 years of age (20 years of age for Casual fuel retail workers), and while the numbers of minors engaged in fuel retail broadly is quite low, there is a relatively large cohort of fuel retail workers particularly, who are aged between 18 and 21 years, so the removal of junior rates would have a direct impact on fuel businesses”.

ACAPMA reminds members that the application to abolish the junior rates is at this point, just an application and there has been no actual change to the functioning of junior rates.  ACAPMA will keep members updated as the application goes through the Fair Work process.

5 weeks leave and 4 day weeks

At the same time the SDA and the broader ACTU have advanced a push to increase the standard annual leave entitlement for all permanent employees to 5 weeks per year.

In announcing the push Mr Dwyer outlined “we’re just conscious that it’s 50 years since the annual leave entitlement in this country. So we says it’s time to have a look at how do we actually create better work-life balance for working Australians.

“There will be a whole host of businesses that will actually benefit from things like the four-day weeks, five weeks’ annual leave,” he said.

ACAPMA reminds members that, like the application to abolish the junior rates, this proposal is in its infancy.

“There has been no change at this point.  Standard annual leave and ordinary patterns of work apply.  ACAPMA will keep members updated as this debate unfolds”, concludes ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

Here to help

ACAPMA members are reminded that they can access the advice support resources and representation of the ACAPMA Employment Professionals on this issue, or indeed any other employment issue, via

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by contacting the ACAPMA Employment Professionals via  its free for members. Click here to apply for ACAPMA Membership.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)