'Unsocial' hours are necessary in the real estate industry

Federal legislation currently being considered could cost the Australian economy millions of dollars in lost productivity if implemented in the real estate industry.

The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 (the Bill), which is currently being considered by the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee, proposes among other things: the need to provide additional remuneration for employees working overtime; unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours; working on weekends or public holidays; or working shifts.

The Bill operates on the basis that everyone should or wants to work during the day, during the week.

While in many industries this is true, it is not true of the real estate industry. Its impact would be devastating, not just to the industry, but to the economy as a whole.

Most real estate businesses work their staff in rosters so they can cover the necessary night and weekend work needed to provide their services to the public.

Staff are attracted to the industry because it favours entrepreneurship; it rewards those ready to work hard.

Everyone employed by a good employer knows the hours before they sign an agreement. This is a law protecting people who want to work regular hours and within rigid guidelines and regulations and does nothing for those who choose to work flexibly and think outside the square.

But the real cost of this type of legislation would be felt in the economy at large, and paid by the average citizen.

The first and most obvious cost will be increased wages which will need to be paid for by increases in fees. Housing affordability is a major issue in this country but this legislation would see an immediate increase in agency fees.  This will slow down housing sales at a time when we can ill afford it.

The hidden cost will be in the number of agencies who will alter or reduce their working hours in order to avoid the extra cost.

The vast majority of property transactions in this country are individuals making private transactions, so they need to inspect, sign a lease, buy and sell properties in their own time.

Imagine if everyone who inspected a house or negotiated a sale or purchase had to do so during standard working hours. The housing sector would grind to a halt but also every other business would find people asking for time off to go and talk to the real estate agent; it would be a nightmare.

The economy needs real estate agents to work nights and weekends so that everyone else does not have to. This is an industry that thrives on flexibility and entrepreneurship, these are not people attracted by the ordinary working week and Australia does not need to pay for it.

Ray Ellis is CEO of First National Real Estate.

Community Discussion

Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?