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Closing loopholes – casual employment

by | May 4, 2024 | C1: Commitment, C2: Capability, Compliance, Fair Work, Human Resources, Modern Awards, News, Wage Obligations

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The Courts and Government have been jumping from one definition or interpretation of what casual employment is to another and then another over recent years and that is happening again under the Albanese Government’s Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023.  Is it just the pendulum swinging back as happens on a change of government or is it more than that?  

S15A(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 currently provides that an employee is a casual employee if the employer offers employment on the basis that “there is no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work for the person” and the person accepts the offer on that basis and becomes an employee as a result of that.

So the emphasis is on what is in the contract regardless of how the arrangement really works in practice.

Under the changes being introduced, the concept that a casual employee is one who has no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work remains but the emphasis shifts to the practical reality of the relationship rather than just what is written in the contract.

The question of whether there is a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work will be determined by a number of questions:

  • whether the employer can choose to offer (or not offer) work to the employee and wether the employee can choose to accept or reject an offer of work
  • whether continuing work is reasonably likely to be available given the nature of the business
  • whether part-time or full-time employees are undertaking similar roles in the workplace
  • whether the employee has a regular pattern of work..We know that the vast majority of business owners try to do the right thing and want to be compliant with their obligations. 

Casual conversion

The ability for casual employees who serve a minimum period of engagement with a regular and systematic pattern of hours of work has been a feature of awards for decades and has been legislated for a few years now. So it isn’t a new concept.

Under the new rules, a casual employee of a small business employer (ie one with less than 15 employee) will be able to apply for conversion to full-time or part-time employment after 12 months service if they believe that they no longer fit the definition of a casual employee. For employees of larger employees, that opportunity comes after 6 months’ service.

The employer will have to respond to any such request within 21 days and, if the employer refuses the request, the employee can make application to the Fair Work Commission for mediation, conciliation or arbitration of the matter as a dispute.

The employer will have to comply with whatever agreement is reached or decision is made in those proceedings.

Employees are under no obligation to convert – they have the option of remaining a casual employee if that is their preference.

There are transitional arrangements whereby the current rules on casual conversion will continue after 26 August 2024 in respect of existing casual employees for a period of 6 months in the case of employers with 15 or more employees or 12 months for employers with less than 15 employees.

Casual Employment Information Statement

All casual employees must be provided with the revised Casual Employment Information Statement on or before commencement or as soon as possible thereafter.

Additionally, under the new rules, they will also have to be provided with it again:

  •  in the case of a small business, after 12 months of employment
  •  in the case of a large business, after 6 months, 12 months and annually thereafter

When is this all happening?

These changes take effect from 26 August 2024.

What do you need to do?

If you employ casual employees, review your current working arrangements eg how long they have been working with you, what their patterns of hours of work are and whether there is a commitment to ongoing employment on a regular basis (whether or not that commitment is in writing).

Secondly, review your employment contracts or letters of offer to ensure that they are consistent with the new definition and rules on casual employment.

Thirdly, ensure that you obtain the new Casual Employment Information Statement when it becomes available and read it to ensure that you understand it.

Fourthly, get prepared to have conversations with your casual employees about their status against the revised definition and rules and to deal with any likely request for conversion.

We can assist you in all of these areas.

If you would like to learn more about ways that we can do this, please call us on 1300 108 488 or email us at enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au.

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

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