Part-day public holiday changes under scrutiny

Business SA said it was working with unions to achieve changes to South Australia's new part-day public holidays.

Employers have complained high penalty rates will force many to close rather than risk losing money.

A raft of changes to retail hours in SA included the introduction of the new public holidays, which apply from 7:00pm to midnight on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Business SA CEO Nigel McBride said his organisation was keen to change the new arrangements rather than see them scrapped.

"There's clearly been some unintended consequences and we want to work sensibly with the unions to get an outcome for employers that's fair and appropriate," he said.

"We need to fix it now.

"We're not going to lobby to overturn it, we believe there's another way through." Industrial Relations Minister Russell Wortley said he had asked Fair Work Australia to take submissions from business groups and unions about how the new part-day public holidays might affect various awards.

Commissioner Peter Hampton will hold a hearing in Adelaide on Wednesday.

Mr Wortley said his action was in response to a few employer groups saying the changes would hurt businesses.

"I'm concerned that the employers didn't do this six or seven months ago.

If they were that concerned about it they would have applied to the Fair Work Australia themselves, which they had every right to do, and they would have been in the Commission six or seven months ago," he said.

"The Government has always been open to discuss this legislation with employer groups but some chose instead to oppose it outright." Australian Hotels Association general manager Ian Horne said he hoped common ground could be found between employers and unions.

"If there is then there'll be a subsequent hearing in Melbourne next week by Fair Work Australia to see if there's some way of getting the award definitions changed so that we avoid some of those unforseen, but quite severe, cost impacts," he said.

The shop workers' union said it thought some employers were making a 'song and dance' about new part-day public holidays.

Union official Peter Malinauskas said he believed employers would be able to cope with the changes.

"The way these public holidays are operating is no different in a practical sense to any of the other public holidays that occur throughout the rest of the year," he said.

"We don't see publicans or restaurateurs complaining about closing doors on Australia Day or on Easter Monday or Easter Saturday or Adelaide Cup Day or any other public holidays of the year.

They seem to be able to handle it then." Sally Neville from Restaurant and Catering SA said the changes were brining some 'unintended consequences'.

She said many businesses could not afford to pay additional penalty rates and leave entitlements.

"We're most concerned for businesses that decide that they can't afford to pay those penalty rates so they decide to close down," she said.

"Those business still have to pay those additional leave entitlements to permanent staff whether or not they work."

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