“The reported comments today from Employment and Workplace Relations Minster Tony Burke on potential changes to the employment of casuals raise more questions than answers. Employers will be understandably alarmed at the prospect of a radical new restriction on the ability to engage casual employees to work regular and predictable hours,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.
“The ability to engage casual employees to work regular and predictable hours, even over a very long period, is a longstanding feature of our workplace relations system. Indeed, the compatibility of regular casual employment with the scheme of the Fair Work Act, introduced by Labor in 2009 , was confirmed by the High Court in 2021.
“Many casuals value work regularly and are given advanced notice of their shifts. Many appreciate having predictability in their hours, but still want the ability to not work if they have another work of family commitment.
“Defining casual employment in a way that prevents or discourages an employer from offering a casual regular and predictable hours would be a mistake that would damage the economy and hurt both businesses and employees.
“If we make it harder for employers to offer regular work to casual employees this will just result in less security, less certainty and less opportunities for workers. It won’t help anyone if an employer is forced to convert a casual employee to a permanent job if one doesn’t genuinely exist. The real risk is that employees will be laid off down the track.
“What little we know of the Government’s plans for casuals appears to be a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
“Casual employees working regular hours already have the capacity to request transition to permanent employment under the ‘casual conversion provisions’ in the Fair Work Act. Indeed, most casuals have never had stronger access to permanent employment than they do now.
“Further, union claims of increasing casualisation of the workforce have been repeatedly demonstrated to be a myth.
“The rate of casual employment in Australia has been stable for some time. In the years before the pandemic, it ranged between 23.5 per cent and 25.5 per cent. The rate of casual work recently declined to the lowest level in a decade.
“A recent Ai Group research paper demonstrated that the proportion of casual workers to the overall workforce is now lower than at any time since 2014.
“Anyone who has worked casual jobs while studying or to balance commitments with their families will be scratching their heads as to why any change is necessary,” Mr Willox said.
Tony Melville - 0419 190 347