FWC backs casual change
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has issued a draft ruling to extend casual worker conversion in nearly 90 more industries.
The ruling this week seeks to expand provisions already offered to manufacturing workers, giving casual workers the right to request permanent employment if they work regular hours over a full year.
The pattern of work is important, as casuals are only allowed to make the request for full time conversion if they work regular hours. People who work irregular shifts are considered genuine casuals, and are not entitled to conversion.
Unions had been pushing for the mandatory conversion of all casual staff to permanent positions after six months' consistent work with a single employer, but Fair Work largely sided with business to extend the timeframe to a full year and allow the final decision to be made at the discretion of the employer.
The Australian Industry Group (AI Group) called it a “significant win for employers”.
“They've retained the right, despite union claims, to refuse requests for staff members to move from casual to permanent under reasonable circumstances, given the conditions and circumstances of the business,” AI Group chief Innes Willox told reporters.
Employers can refuse a request on four grounds;
- If the permanent role would require a significant adjustment to the casual employee's hours of work
- If it is known or reasonably foreseeable that the casual employee's position will cease to exist
- If the employee's hours of work will significantly change or be reduced within the next 12 months
- Other reasonable grounds based on facts which are known or reasonably foreseeable
Still, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) described the ruling as a step towards addressing the “epidemic of insecure work”.
Professor John Buchanan, an industrial relations expert from the University of Sydney, said it may not do much to transform the nature of work in Australia.
“This right has been around in the manufacturing sector since the early 2000s and there has not been an exodus of casuals heading for permanent status, so many workers haven't availed themselves of this right anyway,” he told the ABC.
Mr Willox agreed.
“We don't see that it will have much impact at all — what it is, is an extension of a right that is covered in many awards to cover virtually all people under awards,” he said.
“That's fair enough — that people can ask — but the reality is in most cases, people don't want to convert from casual to permanent because the casual nature of their work gives them the flexibility that they want to study, to spend time with their family or other things.
“They also receive a loading for working as a casual and they would lose that earning and some of their flexibility rights if they were to become permanent.”