Workplace bill won’t force workers off casual contracts

Casual workers who do no want to transition into permanent contracts will not be forced to after the government agreed to amend its workplace reforms bill.

The laws seek to close loopholes in an attempt to improve pay, protections for gig economy workers and provide opportunities for some casuals.

Among some sectors such as hospitality and retail, there were concerns casual workers would be forced onto part or full-time contracts, taking away their flexibility and casual loading .

But the federal government has committed to changing parts of its bill, allowing casuals to stay on their contracts if they wish.

Australian Hotels Association national CEO Stephen Ferguson welcomed the news.

“The simple fact is many hospitality workers do actually prefer casual employment,” he said on Monday.

“Our concern with the original bill was that employers could no longer be able to provide systemic regular casual employment to those workers who were happy with it.

“The amendments which have been committed to provide much more certainty and fairness for workers and employers and can be chalked up as a win for both.”

Previously there were concerns workers who had demonstrated a regular pattern of work – such as a university student who was rostered on every weekend – could not be employed as a casual.

While permanent workers receive annual and sick leave, their hours are fixed and they do not receive the 25 per cent casual loading – which is less preferable for some demographics including students, mature-age workers and parents returning to the workforce.

The risk of keeping these workers on a casual contract would incentivise organisations to hire every employee on a permanent basis.

But the redrafted bill will add a clause to clarify that casual workers can maintain a regular pattern of work, allowing them to work recurring shifts without being a part or full-time employee.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke will also amend the bill to remove the misrepresentation offence, which would have fined employers thousands of dollars if they were found to have engaged a worker as a casual when they should have been hired on a permanent contract.

The changes were proposed by the federal government on Thursday and agreed to in discussions on Friday, although the amendments have not yet been brought to parliament.

Mr Ferguson thanked the minister for listening to their concerns and “striking the right balance”.

The laws are due to be examined at a public hearing in Rockhampton on Tuesday, with a Senate committee report due in February.


Kat Wong
(Australian Associated Press)


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