Retail groups have thrown their support behind an agreement struck in South Australia to reduce penalty rates for retail employees in exchange for better base pay and conditions, calling it a ‘blueprint for the rest of the nation.’

It was reported this morning that the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) came to a deal with the Business SA to abolish penalty rates on Saturdays and halve them on Sundays in exchange for a higher base rate of pay and other improved conditions.

Under the agreement — which is voluntary for both the employer and the employee — public holiday penalty rates will be double time rather than double time and a half. The reduction in holiday and weekend pay will be offset by guaranteed annual pay rises and improved rostering (for example requesting not to work Sundays at all) and shift breaks.

National Retail Association (NRA) CEO Trevor Evans said the landmark deal could hopefully be replicated across other states.

“The agreement of the SDA is encouraging since it recognises the trade-off between penalty rates and retail employment. We hope it can provide a blueprint for other states and will lead to greater employment across the entire sector,” Evans said.

“Many business owners have struggled to stay afloat with recent increases in labour costs, and many abandon trading on Sunday and public holidays altogether due to the impact of penalty rates. This agreement is a win-win as it reflects the needs of both business owners and their staff.

“This is an entirely voluntary, choice-driven agreement, allowing business and workers far greater flexibility to structure their workplace agreements the way they see fit.

“Businesses and their employees can now work together to achieve mutually-beneficial outcomes, while also allowing them to better service their customers,” he said.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) also welcomed the agreement.

“It is very encouraging to see that the SDA has recognised that the current Sunday penalty rate is too high,” said ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman.

“The ARA welcomes any move that better aligns penalty rates with the modern retail industry. Changes like this allow businesses to respond to their customers’ needs, rather than having to try to fit their allocation of labour to an antiquated system.

“We are hopeful that this agreement has a flow-on effect across Australia,” Zimmerman said.