Casual conversion: a testing case for flexibility

If your business employs casual or part-time employees, or needs workforce flexibility to remain competitive and viable, then you need to be aware of the major risks presented by a test case that is underway in the Fair Work Commission.

The ACTU has made application in the Fair Work Commission to make it harder for businesses to employ casual and part-time employees and to impose unworkable restrictions that undermine the flexibility desired by both employers and employees.

Presently, about one third of modern awards contain “casual conversion” clauses. These clauses typically allow casual employees who have worked regularly for six months to request to convert to permanent employees. An employer can refuse, but must not refuse unreasonably.

A major component of the ACTU’s claim is to change “casual conversion” from a process which allows employers to reasonably refuse a request to convert, to a mandatory obligation to convert, regardless of the employer’s business arrangements or requirements.

The ACTU is seeking to:

  • Roll-out new mandatory casual conversion provisions in awards across all industries;
  • Remove an employer’s right to reasonably refuse the request of a casual employee to convert to permanent employment;
  • Retrospectively require employers to recognise service of casual employees for the purpose of accruing permanent entitlements, even where the employee was receiving a casual loading at the time;
  • Prevent employers from increasing the number of casual or part-time employees without first allowing existing casual or part-time employees to work more hours;
  • Increase the minimum engagement period for casual employees to four hours in modern awards providing for less.

Ai Group is strongly opposing the unions’ claims and is playing a leading role in the case to represent the interests of employers. Members who would like more information can contact our National Manager – Workplace Relations Policy, Nicola Street.

Is casual conversion an issue you have dealt with, or ‘reasonably refused’, in your business? Share your experiences and thoughts below.


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As Ai Group's National Manager – Workplace Relations Policy, Nicola is involved in employment test cases and law reform affecting the workplaces of industry. She regularly appears in the Fair Work Commission and Government Inquiries on behalf of Ai Group members, and has many years of “on the ground” strategic experience in advising employers in employment law and people & culture strategies.

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