Australian workers rostered on the Easter and Anzac public holidays will earn a combined $80 million less than in previous years because of reduced penalty rates, a left-leaning think tank says.
But the business community has slammed the calculation as a gross overestimate, both in terms of the number of workers affected, and the overall financial impact.
A report by the Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work released on Wednesday stated more than half-a-million employees in the hospitality and retail sectors will take a hit to the hip pocket over the upcoming holiday period.
"Compensation for working during this period is being significantly reduced as a result of ongoing reductions in penalty rates for Sunday and public holiday work in the retail, accommodation, and food and beverage industries," economist Jim Stanford wrote in the report.
Public holiday rates in the retail, hospitality and pharmacy sector were cut by the Fair Work Commission from 250 per cent to 225 per cent for full-time workers and from 275 per cent to 250 per cent for casuals.
"For those who must do their jobs, and because of lower penalty rates, they will experience an aggregate loss of income in the order of $80 million over the 10-day period," Dr Stanford said.
"That loss will get even bigger if the next stages of penalty rate reductions are allowed to proceed. Once the penalty rates reductions are fully implemented the cumulative losses for a similar holiday would equal $107 million in lost wages."
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss James Pearson said at most, about 350,000 workers would be affected by the change in penalties over the coming week.
"The Centre for Future Work assumes standard trading, but many businesses just do not open over the Easter period," he noted.
"The numbers upon which this research relies appear to be exaggerated.
"It is misleading for the centre to claim that the employment benefits of changing penalty rates have failed to materialise."
Mr Pearson said the centre which produced the report is allied to the powerful Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Dr Stanford rejected business group projections that penalty rate cuts would lead to greater job creation.