The Fair Work Commission today handed down a major decision dealing with a raft of union claims seeking highly problematic restrictions on the use of casual and part-time employment.
Ai Group played the lead role on behalf of employers in strongly opposing the changes proposed by the unions. We devoted significant resources to ensure that members’ interests were protected. This included filing over 800 pages of written submissions, presenting evidence and appearing in approximately 20 days of hearings before a Full Bench of the Commission.
Fortunately, the most unreasonable and damaging elements of the unions proposals have been rejected by the Commission. This includes a rejection of:
- New casual conversion clauses in virtually all modern awards that would have enabled a casual employee to elect to convert after 6 months of regular employment, absent any employer right to refuse.
- A proposal to introduce a four hour minimum engagement period for all casual and part-time employees in a large number of awards.
- A new requirement for employers to offer additional hours to existing casual and part-time staff before engaging new casual and part-time employees.
Today’s decision is important because the unions’ claims, if they had been accepted, would have wreaked havoc on Australia’s labour market. The jobs of thousands of casual employees were at risk by the unions’ proposed casual conversion clauses. Similarly, the unions’ claims for a standard four-hour minimum engagement period for casuals would have harmed the very people that the unions claim to be representing. Many casuals cannot or do not want to work for four hours.
While not granting the unions’ claims, the Commission has proposed that:
- A new casual conversion clause be introduced for those awards that do not currently contain such a provision. The draft model clause would enable a casual employee to elect to convert after 12 months of regular employment. Crucially, an employer would have the right to refuse on reasonable grounds.
- A two-hour minimum engagement be introduced for casual employees where an award does not contain any minimum engagement period.
Although the decision will reduce flexibility for some employers in some industries, the main union claims have been rejected. Also, Ai Group will argue in the upcoming proceedings in the case, for award variations that ensure the negative impacts of the decision are minimised.
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