On Saturday 27 March 2021 the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Act 2021 came into effect, altering the nature of casual employment in the Fair Work Act 2009.
The bulk of reforms proposed in the original Fair Work Amendment Bill (also known as the IR reform bill or omnibus bill) in enterprise bargaining, award simplification and wage theft have been shelved for now.
Amendments to the Fair Work Act include a new definition of a ‘casual employee’ and a pathway for casual employees to move to full-time or part-time (permanent) employment, and a reduction in employers’ liability for misclassifying casual employees.
Pathway to permanency
Fair Work says that 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.
However, after 12 months of employment, employers must give casual employees who have worked a regular pattern of hours in the last 6 months (12 months for casual employees of a small business), either an offer of full-time or part-time employment or a notice with reasons why they have not received an offer.
In some circumstances casual employees can request that their employer converts their employment to full-time or part-time (permanent), except if they’ve refused an earlier offer or their employer has ‘reasonable grounds’ to refuse the request.
WorkPac vs Rossato corralled
The Fair Work amendments also address the large back payments employers were facing from the WorkPac vs Rossato case, which ruled that a worker could not be defined as casual if their work patterns reflected regular, ongoing employment.
A new statutory offset rule ensures that where an employee is found by a court not to be a casual employee under the statutory definition, employers will not have to pay the same entitlements twice – what’s been described as ‘double dipping’. The new rule requires a court to reduce any amounts that the employee could be entitled to, by reference to casual loading amounts already paid by the employer to the employee in compensation for the foregone entitlements of a permanent position.
Your rights and responsibilities
Finally, employers have to give casual employees a Casual Employment Information Statement (CEIS), which outlines employee and employer rights and responsibilities, and the role of the Fair Work Commission to deal with disputes.
Access detailed information from the Fair Work website: Changes to casual employment – industrial relations reforms.