Small businesses urged to heed casual employment changes

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More than two months after the Federal Government’s new Industrial Relations bill became law, many business owners are still confused as to how the changes affect them, according to workplace relations advisors Employsure.

The bill, designed to support struggling businesses and improve the rights of workers, was tabled with the intention of targeting five key aspects of our complicated Industrial relations. However, four of those five measures – award simplification, greenfields agreements, wage theft, and enterprise bargaining – did not make it through the Senate. Only one of the areas targeted – a raft of measures addressing casual employment – made it through and became law.

“There have been a number of changes to casual employment that have come into effect since the amendments were made to the Fair Work Act,” Josh Paterson, Business Partner at Employsure, said.

“One of the most significant changes is the new legal definition of a casual worker,” Paterson added. “Now the definition is law, a casual employee will remain a casual until they are either converted to a permanent role or accept an alternative offer of permanent employment. This is a win for employers and will ultimately help them avoid confusion with their employees, and possible future legal cases.”

Alongside this key measure, a new legal avenue to help employers avoid ‘double-dipping’ and the casual conversion clause – that facilitates the conversion of convert casual workers into permanent employees – were enacted. These measures apply to every employee in the National System Employees, and not just those workers who are covered by a Modern Award.

Paterson is urging employers to adopt a digital system in place to help with the conversion as they offer greater visibility and prevent casual workers who should rightly be offered a casual a permanent position “slipping through the cracks” and missing out on the opportunity. He also pointed out that employers need to monitor the shift patterns of casuals to determine whether or not they are eligible to be offered permanent employee status – and a digital system facilitates such monitoring.

“It is in the best interest of employers to do this if they wish to minimise the number of workers becoming entitled to, or exercising casual conversion rights,” Paterson said.

“Giving employers more of an opportunity to convert casuals to a permanent role will ultimately act as a fix to double-dipping backpay claims, and will help provide additional certainty to both employers and employees on the status of casual employment.”