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Jason Kayler-Thomson , proprietor of Burger Inc , a gourmet hamburger restaurant in Geelong, Victoria, is philosophical about weekend penalty rates. “When you own a small business, you take the good with the bad,” says Kayler-Thomson, who started the business in 2006. As well as partner Belinda Van Zanen, Burger Inc has just one full-time employee and on weekends as many as five casual staff.
Unlike many small businesses that find Sunday trading too expensive because of weekend penalty rates, Burger Inc opens on Sundays. “It’s always been a busy day for us. The labour cost is higher but it’s still worth it,” Kayler-Thomson says.
Burger Inc generally employs university students: Victoria’s Deakin University is based in Geelong. By the time loadings for casual employees and weekend penalty rates are factored in, base hourly rates of between $15 and $22, depending on the employee’s age, can shoot up 50 per cent on Saturdays and 75 per cent on Sundays.
Kayler-Thomson says the higher weekend rates have forced the business to become more efficient. Casual employees are required to work across various aspects of the business – such as answering the phones, working the cash register and cooking chips. If wages were lower, he suspects he would have one person assigned to each task.
Even if weekend penalty rates were abolished, Kayler-Thomson believes he would have to pay beyond the flat rate to attract the best staff. “Australia is a seven days a week society but in general no one wants to work on Sundays, so being paid more would tip the balance,” he says.
Would it take as much as the current weekend penalty rates? “Yeah, I think in some cases it would.”