Sunday should pay same as Saturday: Productivity Commission

A LONG-awaited draft report into the nation's workplace relations laws has recommended an overhaul of penalty rates and a small rise to the minimum wage.

The Productivity Commission report recommended Sunday penalty and overtime rates should be aligned with Saturday rates across the retail and hospitality sectors.

But the mooted changes would safeguard penalty rates for nurses, police and other emergency workers.

The commission also recommended creating a new statutory enterprise contract for small to medium businesses, giving employees the option of opting out of it after a year if they are not happy with it.

Commission chair Peter Harris said Australia's workplace relations system was not dysfunctional.

He said it needed repair not replacement.

"Many features work well, especially given the need to find balance between the conflicting goals of the parties involved," he said.

"Changes to the workplace relations framework have to recognise that it is not just about the economics.

"There are ethical and community norms about the way in which a country treats its employees.

"Nevertheless, important reforms are needed, preferably soon."

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said the draft recommendations are now open for comment before the commission handed down its final report later this year.

"I encourage employees, employers and their representatives to make further submissions as part of the consultation stage," he said.

"I trust that Labor, the unions and all interested parties respond to this independent evidence-based inquiry by having a genuine conversation about how the Fair Work Laws can work best for employees, employers and the economy as a whole."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the Abbott Government was determined to return to the WorkChoices era through stealth.

He said the recommendations contained in the report sold Australian workers short.

Treasurer Joe Hockey and Employment Minister Eric Abetz commissioned the review of the Fair Work Act in December.

The Productivity Commission was tasked with examining how workplace laws impact job creation, fair conditions for workers, productivity, investment and the needs of small business.

The commission received 255 submissions including 24 from various unions.

Greens Leader Adam Brandt vowed to make penalty rates an election issue, saying any cuts to penalty rates would be a blow for young people across the country.


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