Casual Employment Reforms Pass Parliament

Employee Wage Agreement
In a timely win for employers, the IR Omnibus Bill, passed Parliament on 22 March 2021.

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In a timely win for employers, the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021, commonly referred to as the IR Omnibus Bill, passed Parliament on 22 March 2021. After the bulk of the Bill was rejected by the Senate, the provisions left in the Bill are those relating to casual employment, the highest priority reform identified by NatRoad.

With the passing of the legislation, we now have a statutory definition of casual employment for the first time. The legislation also clarifies the situation regarding “double-dipping” by casual workers, after courts had ruled that they should receive standard employee entitlements as well as a casual loading where they were engaged on a regular and systematic basis.

The casual provisions apply to new employees and existing casual employees engaged prior to the amendments taking effect (with that date not yet being set), with a 6 month transitional period for conversion provisions.

The Bill as passed will amend the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to:

  • define “casual employee” so that the employee’s status is determined at the beginning of the employment relationship;
  • require most employers to offer eligible casual employees conversion to permanent employment after 12 months, unless there is a reasonable business justification not to do so;
  • require employers to give new casual employees a Casual Employment Information Statement (yet to be released);
  • allow a court to offset casual loading amounts paid to an employee against claimed entitlements during a period when that employee was not a casual employee but had been so classified; and
  • allow the FWC to deal with small-claims style disputes about casual conversion.

Significantly, provisions that would have criminalised wage theft, as well as those relating to award flexibility, greenfields agreements and Fair Work Commission procedure, were dropped from the Bill as passed.

Regardless of whether you are a small, medium or large business, it is essential that a well-drafted employment contract is in place for every employee.  But that is especially the case now for casual employees.

A written employment contract will help to ensure that the rights and obligations of each party are clearly understood. This will help reduce the risk of any misinterpretations or misunderstandings which could potentially put the business at risk.

Following the commencement of the statute, NatRoad will circulate a further article outlining recommended steps for members to take in reviewing their casual employment arrangements.

NatRoad’s advisors are experienced in assisting employers meet their legal obligations in employment matters, including the drafting of employment contracts. For more information and advice about your obligations, contact a NatRoad advisor on (02) 6295 3000 or [email protected].

NatRoad communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Our advisors are available to clarify any questions you have and provide the right advice for your business and workforce. Contact NatRoad on (02) 6295 3000.