Retail Workers, Don’t Be Bullied Into Working Boxing Day

The NSW government has updated its laws around Boxing Day trading after years of arbitrary location-dependent closures. Under the new laws, any store may open for trade on Boxing day — but the government wants to make sure that no one is coerced to work on this public holiday.

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As of this upcoming boxing day, any retail shop in NSW may choose to open for trade, with the condition being that “all persons working in the shop freely elect to do so without any coercion, harassment, threat or intimidation by or on behalf of the occupier of the shop.” If you’re a casual employee, for example, the threat of losing shifts if you don’t work the nightmarish Boxing Day shift could be considered coercion. Of course, for people who don’t have plans for the public holiday and would rather reap the benefits of public holiday pay, then you are of course free to volunteer for one of these lucrative shifts.

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The Industrial Relations site also specifies that “merely rostering a person to work on the day does not mean that they have freely elected to work,” meaning that you must have implicitly agreed to take the Boxing Day for your employer to require you to turn up to work. If you believe your employer is coercing you into working on Boxing Day, or if you’ve experienced “adverse consequences” as a result of using your right not to work on public holidays, then you can lodge a claim through Fair Work, or otherwise can call the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94. Any employer found to be bullying their employees into working on Boxing Day could be fined up to $11,000 per person who has been coerced to work. This law also applies to landlords of retail premises — if landlords compel shopkeepers to open on restricted trading days, they could be liable for fines of up to $22,000.

If you’re working retail this Christmas, make sure you know and exercise your rights. It’s worth dusting off that old employment contract just to make sure you’re getting paid for as many hours and bonuses as you’re entitled to, as well as taking the right length of lunch break for the time that you’re working. You’ll need it to stay sane as the pre-Christmas rush shopping reaches its peak, after all.

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