The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021 (Bill) was introduced into Parliament on 9 December 2020 and was passed by both houses on 22 March 2021.
In its original form, the Bill sought to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act) and related legislation to assist Australia’s recovery from COVID-19 by:
However, only those amendments relating to casual employment have been passed.
The Casual Employment Information Statement should be given to existing casual employees as soon as possible. In the case of new employees, this must be given by the employer before or as soon as possible after a person starts employment as a casual employee. The Casual Employment Information Statement is published by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
A definition of a casual employee has now been legislated at s.15A of the Fair Work Act which focuses on the nature and characteristics of the engagement at the beginning of employment. In summary a person will be a casual employee if:
(a) an offer of employment made by the employer to the person is made on the basis that the employer makes no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work for the person; and
(b) the person accepts the offer on that basis; and
(c) the person is an employee as a result of that acceptance.
In determining whether, at the time the offer is made, the employer makes no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work for the person, regard must be had only to the following considerations:
(a) whether the employer can elect to offer work and whether the person can elect to accept or reject work;
(b) whether the person will work as required according to the needs of the employer;
(c) whether the employment is described as casual employment;
(d) whether the person will be entitled to a casual loading or a specific rate of pay for casual employees under the terms of the offer or a fair work instrument.
A regular pattern of hours does not, of itself, indicate a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work. Further, the question of whether a person is a casual employee of an employer is to be assessed on the basis of the offer of employment and the acceptance of that offer, not on the basis of any subsequent conduct of either party.
There is now a requirement upon employers (except small business employers i.e. those with less than 15 employees) to offer conversion from casual to part time or full time employment to a casual employee:
unless there are reasonable grounds not to make the offer and the reasonable grounds are based on facts that are known, or reasonably foreseeable, at the time of deciding not to make the offer.
There are also specific requirements for offer and acceptance of casual conversion.
Casual employees of small business employers who meet the criteria may themselves request conversion in accordance with a prescribed procedure at any time. For other businesses the request can be made after the employer has decided not to offer conversion. Such requests by employees for conversion must not be refused by the employer unless:
(a) the employer has consulted the employee; and
(b) there are reasonable grounds to refuse the request; and
(c) the reasonable grounds are based on facts that are known, or reasonably foreseeable, at the time of refusing the request.
If a casual employee is entitled to relevant entitlements of a part or full time employee (paid annual leave, paid personal/carer’s leave, paid compassionate leave, payment for absence on a public holiday, payment in lieu of notice of termination, redundancy pay) which have not been paid, but the employee has been paid casual loading instead, a court can reduce the amount payable by an employer by an amount equal to the casual loading that has been paid.
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The information provided in this article is provided by way of general information only. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Specific independent legal advice should be obtained before deciding to act, or not to act, upon the views expressed or information contained in this article.
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