Good news for casuals
On 5 July, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) brought down a significant decision for casual workers, as part of the general modern awards review.
The FWC ruled that all modern awards will soon have included a provision for ‘casual conversion’, under which an employee can elect to convert their casual position to an ongoing one, after 12 months of continuous service.
The new clause will be broadly similar to a clause that used to exist in the old federal English Colleges Award 1998, which is that it will be a ‘right to request’ to become permanent. It will not be an automatic right, and employers will still have some scope to refuse such a request, such as:
- it would require a significant adjustment to the casual employee’s hours of work to accommodate them in full time or part time employment
- it is known or reasonably foreseeable that the casual employee’s position will cease to exist
- the casual employee’s hours will significantly change or be reduced within the next 12 months, or
- it is reasonable in the circumstances based on facts which are known or reasonably foreseeable.
It is also the case that for many casuals, such a conversion may not be attractive. Casual rates are determined by taking the hourly permanent rate, and adding a casual loading of 25%, and so while becoming permanent would provide for paid annual leave and sick leave, and also provide greater job security, it would for most people involve a reduction in weekly take home pay.
Despite these shortcomings, the decision by the FWC represents a big step forward to arresting the growing prevalence of casual and other forms of insecure work, and members are encouraged to take advantage of this where possible. The new provisions are expected to take effect later this year.