Penalty Rates: an industry problem or really a political issue?

The current debate on penalty rates for weekend work focus on the wrong issue. For decades, the industry has debated the problem not the root cause. It is not about penalty rates. The real issue is about appropriate level of compensation to hire a professionally trained person.

Obviously, and rightly business owners like to reduce costs and employees strive to maximize their salary. However, there are three fundamentals; unless a business makes profit no one wins, unless professionally skilled people supports a business no one wins, and last, and the most influential, unless people in a career are adequately compensated for their skills, fundamental one and two will not work.

A career in hospitality is 24 /7, even more fundamental, an occupation that requires “one to work when others are at play”, that is an undeniable fact and accepted by normal intelligent people who work in or about to join the industry.

Let’s cut to the chase, it is irrational to suggest that one is worth more on a Saturday, Sunday or a Monday because it’s  a weekend or public holiday than any other normal day in the week. It is just as illogical is to suggest penalty rates should be cut because we cannot afford to pay more for staff more on the weekend or Monday a public holiday.

What we should be debating is the overall annual remuneration for a job that requires a trained skilled person who is required to be on duty on the public holiday.

There is unfortunately a community mindset including industry leaders that hospitality does not require academically minded or reasonably intelligent people. Therefore, they can be “low paid workers” 24/7. Therein lies a paradox, an occupation that requires a worker to be physically fit, mentally adept, intelligent, and skilled, have professional perspective, flexible and is experienced is not a low paid worker, nor with that attitude, will the industry be able to attract appropriate people.

Currently, industry professionals are appropriately compensated for their skills by a “top up with penalty rates, so legislators need to tread carefully with this decision; either remove penalty rates and at the same time substantially increase salary potentials, or remove penalty rates without any compensation and exacerbate the shortage of skilled workers to the detriment of everyone’s business and the whole industry. That is the bottom line

Industry leaders need to stop playing politics and realise that they need to adequately pay a salary that befits a professional, demand and recruit people with sufficient academic ability, return to employing cooks and not ill-prepared pseudonym chefs.  Then the industry will stimulate the environment to attract people with the ability to be professional in their workplace and intelligent enough to realise that their career requires a 24/7 mindset. And everyone will win because professional staff working for professional managers will bring back clients.

No, its not about penalty rates it’s about attitude on both sides of the fence.  Under current salary conditions for fully trained and experienced professionals. the Institute opposes changes to the penalty rates based on the  fundamental that the negative outcome is far greater than the benefit that will accrue to the industry.

Authored by George Hill

George Hill is the President of the “Australian Institute of TechnicalChefs”. The only professional chefs association that licenses legitimate commercial chefs.