Casual workers can now demand a permanent full-time or part-time job, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.
Employees who work regular hours for over 12 months will be able to request a permanent position under the ruling. However, employers can refuse the request on reasonable grounds, for example
- if the worker’s hours would need to be substantially changed to accommodate them as a permanent team member.
- if it is known or reasonably foreseeable that the casual employee’s position will cease to exist in the next 12 months.
- if the employee’s hours of work will significantly change or be reduced within the next 12 months.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) had requested casual conversion be made an absolute right after six months.
In its decision on 5 July, the Fair Work Commission said it was “necessary that modern awards contain a provision by which casual employees may elect to convert to full-time or part-time employment.”
The industry umpire agreed with the unions’ claim that “the unrestricted use of casual employment without the safeguard of a casual conversion clause may operate to undermine the fairness and relevance of the safety net.”
Employers must provide provide all casual employees (whether they become eligible for conversion or not) with a copy of the casual conversion clause within the first 12 months after their initial engagement.
The ruling affects 85 awards that did not already contain such a provision.
“Today’s decision is the first small step towards addressing the crisis of insecure work and casualisation in Australia’s workforce,” said ACTU secretary Sally McManus.
“Casual workers earn less wages and lower superannuation. Women are more often in casual employment than men, and casualisation contributes to the gender pay gap.
“Too many employers have been abusing the term casual, and use it as a business model to drive down wages.”
Australian Hotels Association CEO Stephen Ferguson said the announcement by the independent umpire was a ‘common-sense win’ for both employers and employees.
“The Fair Work Commission agreed with the AHA submission that greater flexibility in part-time employment would be in the interests of both employee and employer,” Ferguson said.
“The FWC found that the current part-time provision was close to being a ‘dead letter’ and unworkable. This has traditionally seen a low percentage of part-time workers across our industry.
“We proposed a more flexible system which contained appropriate safeguards for workers including guaranteed hours, same days off and overtime measures.
“This decision by the independent umpire will bring benefits to workers including more certainty, regular employment and the capacity to apply for loans and mortgages.”
Read a summary of the decision here.
Staffing concerns like casual employment, penalty rates and visas will be discussed at the upcoming Restaurant Leaders Summit on 31 July.
Panellists will discuss the best ways for operators to overcome the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining staff members.
Natalie James, Fair Work Ombudsman, will also be on-stage, discussing business’ obligations when it comes to their workers’ remuneration, and addressing the hospitality industry’s reputation for being a serial offender when it comes to staff underpayments.