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On Thursday, the Fair Work Commission handed down its long-awaited decision to slash the penalty rates of workers in the hospitality, fast food, restaurant, retail and pharmacy industries.

The ruling could see Sunday and public holiday penalty rates cut by up to 50 per cent.

Slater and Gordon Principal Employment Lawyer Aron Neilson said hundreds of thousands of workers will be affected.

“Generations of Australians have fought hard and won penalty rates in recognition of the tough hours and sacrifices they regularly make to get the job done,” Mr Neilson said.

“Slashing Sunday and public holiday loadings is not only a slap in the face to some of the most hard-working and vulnerable Australians, it is also a huge threat to their ability to make ends meet.

“These changes are not law just yet and there is still time for intervention, which is why workers need to double and triple check they aren’t being short changed in the meantime.”

Mr Neilson said workers should pay close attention to the fine print on their payslips, because the proposed penalty rate cuts are not yet in force.

“There is already strong opposition to this decision and potential appeals are likely, so employees should be keeping a close eye on their pay packets,” Mr Neilson said.

“At this stage, public holiday penalty rate cuts are not due to come into force until 1 July 2017, but that is pending any appeals or variations.

“The timeframe is much more unclear for Sunday penalty rate cuts, with staggered annual reductions over at least two years proposed to begin on 1 July 2017, but this matter is expected to be heard in court in early May 2017.

“Workers should look up their award and check their current penalty rates against the calculations on their pay slip. If they don’t match, workers should raise it with their boss.”

Mr Neilson said workers should remember they have rights, regardless of whether they are permanent or casual employees.

“It can be incredibly intimidating to stand up to an employer and ask them to do the right thing, especially when the issue relates to money,” Mr Neilson said.

“Employees should remember that it is a breach of the Fair Work Act for an employer to sack you or stop rostering you for shifts because you raised a concern about your wages.

“It is even illegal for your boss to threaten to take any of these steps, so if you think you’re not being paid all of your entitlements or you’re being treated unfairly, it’s important to raise the matter with your union or get legal advice so you’re not on your own.”