Media Releases

Retail NZ welcomes Government announcement to repeal Fair Pay Agreement and extend 90-day trials

11 December 2023

Retail NZ has welcomed the Government announcement to repeal the Fair Pay Agreement and extend the 90-day trial period for all businesses.

“These Government decisions are a real boost for the retail sector which has been under incredible pressure in the past few years,” says Retail NZ Chief Executive Carolyn Young.

Young explains that the Fair Pay Agreement may have been well-intended but in reality created unnecessary complications of the existing robust employment laws in this country.

“The Fair Pay Agreement legislation made assumptions about people working in very narrow, fixed positions, where in reality many retail workers have a mixture of responsibilities in their work place,” says Young.

She adds that revoking the legislation and extending the 90-day trial for all businesses will make the retailers more agile to respond to the needs of their fast-moving businesses and will also give thousands of potential employees the chance to make an impression in the work force.

Young says the announcement today is a terrific step to remove some recruitment barriers, but that the Government can do a lot more to support an industry which employs over 230,000 New Zealanders.

“I am afraid, we will still see long check-out queues in shops and malls around New Zealand leading into Christmas, as a result of the barrier our shop owners face in finding good staff. This busy period only highlights the recruitment problems in retail that are reaching crisis point over Christmas,” says Young.

Retail NZ has summarised the main issues in a Workforce Position Statement that highlights how the current immigration settings and sick leave for part-timers are among the major challenges for shop owners in finding new staff who often lack the most basic work skills.

“We estimate that we need to recruit over 13,000 new staff, many in skilled roles like the digital and data space, but the biggest gaps are the unskilled positions. 

“Unfortunately, the immigration laws require median wages to secure visas even for these unskilled jobs, which is often unaffordable for employers,” says Young, who adds that slow processing visas is exacerbating the problem.

During the Christmas break, many retailers fill their vacancies with University and high-school students who often have no work experience and the impact of Covid on learning means that many young people have lower numeracy or literacy skills, and some have little awareness of what is expected of them in a professional environment.

Young says that the current requirement to give 10 sick days to casual staff, whether they are full time or just work a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday is also causing significant headaches.

“If you have a staff member who only works on Saturdays, they can still take 10 Saturdays paid sick leave throughout the year, which is an anomaly that needs to be addressed,” says Young, who argues that it is fairer to retailers that sick days should become proportionate to the amount of days each person is contracted for.

The chief executive says that retail offers a genuine career path, from the shop floor to wonderful management and premium roles in specialist areas.

“Retail NZ works hard to change that perception and attract top calibre candidates at every level, but the past few years since the pandemic have been extremely challenging for retailers.

“We hope the new Government can offer a helping hand with employment laws that are fit for purpose and easy to use for business owners,” says Young.

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