Penalty rates ‘add pressure’ for bosses in hospitality

Colleen Doherty receives penalty rates for night shifts and weekend work at Bridges Cafe and Restaurant.
Colleen Doherty receives penalty rates for night shifts and weekend work at Bridges Cafe and Restaurant. Tony Martin

BRIDGES Cafe and Restaurant owner Mick Burley knows just how much of a blow penalty rates can be on small businesses.

That's because last year he forked out $500,000 for wages.

The penalty rate debate has been reignited amongst the nation's politicians. Some are saying workers are paid too much, while union members claim hospitality workers are barely getting by.

As Bridges is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the chefs, cooks, apprentices and waiters are rotated throughout the day.

"We have about 15 people on the books here," Mr Burley said.

"When you start paying penalties on top of that, it adds a lot of pressure."

Penalty rates, however, allow businesses in the hospitality industry to offer competitive wages and attract staff.

The days when penalty rates are the highest are generally the same days cafes and restaurants generate the most revenue.

However, Mr Burley said that was not always the case.

"You never know what is going to happen on a public holiday," he said.

"Sometimes we have had big days; other times it has been really quiet.

"We are not sure if we can afford to be open on those days now."

He said it was difficult to predict how many staff he required day to day.

"We have to try and strike that balance between keeping staffing costs down, but having enough staff to keep the customers happy," he said.

Rates and rights

  •  The minimum award rate for a hospitality worker is about $16.80.
  •  Penalty rates are awarded on Saturday and Sunday shifts, as well as work after 10pm.
  •  Penalties are also given for public holiday work.
  •  Visit the Fair Work Ombudsman's website for more information about what rights you have in the hospitality industry.
  •  Visit

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Topics:  business hospitality mackay owner penalty rates restaurant

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