New Casual Workers Laws in Australia: What you need to know.
If you are a business owner who employs staff on a casual basis or a casual worker yourself, there are some updates to Australia’s Casual Worker laws that you need to know.
Here is a breakdown of the amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth):
1. New Definition of a ‘Casual Employee’
The Fair Work Act has been amended to include a new definition of a casual employee.
A person is a casual employee if they accept a job offer from an employer knowing that there is no firm advance commitment to ongoing work with an agreed pattern of work.
Once employed as a casual, an employee will continue to be a casual employee until:
- they become a permanent employee through:
- casual conversion, or
- being offered and accepting full-time or part-time employment, or
- they stop being employed by the employer.
What does A Firm Advance Commitment to a Continuing and Indefinite Pattern of Work Mean?
When determining whether you have made a firm advance commitment to a continuing and indefinite pattern of work, consider if:
- The employment is described as casual employment, or
- The employee is entitled to casual loading a specific rate of pay for casual employees, and
- The employee is required to work on a “needs” basis for the employer
What if there is a Regular Pattern of Hours of Work?
A regular pattern of hours does not necessarily indicate a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work. If, for example, you work a regular pattern on 8 hours a week, this would not indicate a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work and you would likely be a causal employee.
If, however, you are employed on a basis to work 2 x 8 hour shifts on the same days on a weekly and indefinite basis, then this would be a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work. As such, you would not be casual employee.
2. ‘Regular Casual Employee’ are now included in the Act
Prior to these amendments, the Act provided for ‘Long Term Casual Employees’. This has now been amended and replaced with a new definition for ‘Regular Casual Employees’.
In accordance with section 12, an employee is a ‘regular casual employee’ if, at that time:
- The employee is a casual employee, and
- The employee has been employed by the employer on a regular and systemic basis.
So, what does this mean?
The National Employment Standards now include an entitlement for casual employees to become full-time or part-time (permanent) in some circumstances. This is also known as ‘casual conversion’.
Casual conversion is when a ‘casual employee’ has the right to be offered or request permanent employment.
In order to be eligible for ‘casual conversion’, the ‘casual employee’ must:
- Have been employed for 12 months or more,
- Have worked regular and systemic hours for at least 6 months and
- Your regular hours could continue as a permanent employee without significant changes.
Making an offer:
When making an offer to an employee, the offer must:
- Be in writing,
- Be an offer for the employment to convert to either full-time or part-time work, and
- Be given to the employee within 21 days from when the employee reached 12 months of employment.
If an employee is eligible, then an employer is under an obligation to offer permanent employment, unless there are reasonable grounds to not make the offer.
Making a Request:
A casual employee has the right make a request for casual conversion if:
- They are eligible for casual conversion (as discussed above),
- They have not refused a previous offer of casual conversion in the past 6 months,
- The employer has not provided notice detailing that they will not offer casual conversion on reasonable grounds, and
- The employer has not refused a previous request for casual conversion.
I am a small business – does this apply to me?
Under Section 23 of the Act, a small business owner is an employer who employs less than 15 employees at one time.
If you are a small business owner within the meaning of the Act, then you are not under an obligation to offer casual conversion. However, your employees are entitled to request casual conversion if they satisfy the criteria described above.
As an employee of casual workers or a casual worker yourself, it is vital that you understand the new laws and your rights.
In summary, the new amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), require employers to:
- Make no firm advance commitment tot a continuing and indefinite pattern of work when offering casual employment,
- Understand and implement casual conversion,
- Small business owners are not obliged to offer casual employment however, their employees are entitled to make a request.
For more information on the new reforms it is essential that you read the ‘Casual Employees Information Statement’ which details the new casual worker reforms. The Act requires that all employers provide the Information Statement to all casual employees before or as soon as practicable after the casual employee begins their employment.
If you need any assistance in understanding your rights in accordance with these new Casual Workers Laws, contact our team or call us at 02 8644 6000, and we’ll be happy to discuss all your legal requirements.