With less than one week left until Christmas, us retail workers are facing the most chaotic time of the year.
We aren’t strangers to the old: “Can you put this on hold please? I’ll be right back,” only for our hopes to be crushed when Susan never returns.
And oh boy, if we didn’t know all the lyrics to Mariah Carey’s Christmas jams before we started in retail, it’s safe to say we do now.
But all jokes aside, we might actually be in the dark about our rights and entitlements as retail workers.
Take this scenario:
You’re a lunch cover working four hours in a clothing store. You started your shift at 11am, but it’s almost 3pm. There are ten of you currently working and your boss said you could take your break in last hour of your shift. You thought it would be nice to take it earlier, but you don’t want to push it. It’s now 2:45pm, and your boss gives you the OK to leave. But you think: Is there even any point now?
As you’re making your way to the exit, tired and unsure why you’re even bothering at this point, a woman walks in with her husband: “Babe, does this look good on me? I reckon I could wear it to the Christmas party.” Babe says “looks great, honey.” What Babe is really thinking is: When will it end?
And you’re thinking the same thing because the ‘customer first’ reflex in you comes out, and you serve them instead.
Before you know it, your shift has ended, and you never got your break.
It seems unfair, but because it’s only ten minutes you might just brush it off. Not getting that 10 minute break goes against your legal entitlements as a retail employee. (That’s not the only thing wrong with this scenario, btw).
While customers are priority on the shop floor, we need to know our own rights away from it too, especially around the busiest time of the year.
Let’s talk more about our shift and break entitlements.
- A rest break is a ten minute paid break for working four or more hours. You get one of these if you’re working less than seven hours, and two if you work seven hours or more;
- A meal break is a 30–60 minute unpaid break for those working more than five hours, but less than seven. Note that your break doesn’t count as time worked unless you’re a shiftworker; and
- If you work 10 or more hours, you get two rest breaks and two meal breaks.
FWO also says that “employees can’t be asked to take a rest or meal break within one hour of starting or finishing work.”
So, it seems the previous scenario is wrong on two fronts—while your hypothetical boss was right in giving you a 10-minute tea break, you didn’t actually have time to take it. Not only that, but you were specifically told to take it in the last hour of your shift, which is against worker standards.
What about our pay?
For retail workers, your hourly rate will depend on factors including whether you’re a full-timer, part-timer or casual, your employee level, and your age.
Your exact entitlements can be found via FWO’s Pay Calculator.
When calculating as a retail worker, ensure you look at your entitlements under ‘General Retail Industry Award 2010’, and find out which Retail Employee level you are classified under. This will tell you the minimum you should be getting paid per hour (including penalty rates).
Out of curiosity, I used the calculator myself, and found as a level 1 casual employee ‘aged 21 and over’, I am entitled to a minimum of $26.76 per hour. Your contract should tell you your employee level, just FYI!
Still feel like there’s other issues you think need addressing?
Do your research first! If you’re still worried, ask your manager if you can chat with them privately. If you do this in an appropriate and well-informed fashion, chances are, they’ll be more than willing to sort it out with you.
As you can see, whether this is your first retail job or you’ve got a new boss who’s changed things up a bit, it’s important to know your rights and speak up. You may find researching via FWO, or going through your employment contract with a fine-tooth comb will help get the answers you’re seeking. And if not (whether you’re not comfortable, or the issue is more serious), you may seek mediation instead via a scheduled phone call.
But don’t let these issues spoil the festive season for you! You can address employment concerns anytime of the year; it’s never too late. And, if you don’t have any concerns right now, at least you can be more informed in case anything does arise later on.