Could the FWC Penalty rates decision affect doctors?



On 3 March, we reported on the decision of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to cut Sunday penalty rates for a number of Australian workers.

Some members have contacted ASMOF to ask if this could flow onto doctors.

The short answer is not straight away.

But this decision opens the door to penalty rate cuts in other sectors and for many other workers because the factors the FWC considered, including consumer expectation for services on weekends and public holidays, might be applied to other awards and sectors – including health.

The reasons the FWC used to cut Sunday penalty rates included:
  •  the consumer amenity and expectation of greater services and trading hours on weekends
  •  the reduced social disutility of working on Sundays
  •  the likelihood of a modest positive effect on employment. The precedent has now been set to attack the penalty rates of all Australian workers.
This has been confirmed by a leading industrial lawyer Giri Sivaraman form Maurice Blackburn who has provided legal advice to the ACTU saying that FWC might cut compensation for working unsociable hours in industries beyond retail and hospitality.

In fact, the Nurses Union has had to fight off an attack from a billion-dollar healthcare employer, Sonic Health Plus which this week proposed the nurses’ Sunday penalty rates are cut by at least a third. Thankfully the union ran a successful campaign against these attacks and Sonic has (for the time being) withdrawn its claim to slash penalty rates.