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Casuals causing election consternation

Wednesday, 01 May 2019
By Wayne Robinson

Casuals: nervous time for print business owners who may have to pay back entitlements

The election statements coming from the Labor Party on casual employees are causing increasing angst amongst business leaders and at the PIAA.

Labor wants to give casuals the right to become permanent if they request it – currently employers can refuse. According to the PIAA and other business leaders, the changes may impede small business owners’ hiring decisions and ultimately affect how small businesses are managed after the Federal Election.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten is already under fire from employers for saying he will restrict foreign workers coming into the country by increasing their minimum pay and making the visa more expensive.

Sam Puri, Industrial Advocate for PIAA says, “Small business owners should be left to manage their businesses. They know whether they need to employ full-time, part-time or casual staff, and the last thing they need is oversight from a third party, particularly if they have reasonable business grounds for their decisions. Not every small business has the ability to employ permanent staff, and small business is the lifeblood of the Australian economy and the largest job creation sector. It does not make sense to make things tougher for them.”

Casual staff are a feature of many printing businesses, which typically have peaks and troughs. The Federal Opposition is also looking to change the definition of casual employment. Under the majority of modern awards, an employee is considered a casual if they are employed as a casual and paid a casual loading. However, that all changed in 2018 with the full Federal Court’s decision in Workpac Pty Ltd v Skene. Now the Federal Opposition is seeking to define who is considered a casual by using “objective” criteria, which is currently unknown.

Employers say the current situation can lead to double dipping where the casual staff are paid their loading and also get the full entitlements of sick pay, holiday pay and other benefits; however, unions are pushing Labor to give casuals entitlements.

The PIAA is calling on the next Parliament to provide certainty and stability to small business owners, due to the current shifting landscape surrounding casual employment. Small business owners are crying out for a simple, clear, easy to understand and easy to apply definition of casual employment that cannot be changed on a whim based on subjective assessment and opinions.

One concept is perma-flexi, just put forward by the NSW Business Chamber, which gives employees a ten per cent loading, plus pro-rata entitlements on hours worked, in exchange for flexible rostering with a minimum number of hours.

The PIAA says that “although perma-flexi creates more complexity in an already complex IR system, the PIAA welcomes the proposal as a starting point for debate in creating a fair system that does not penalise employers.”

Employers in the UK have used zero hours contracts, but they have been controversial, as staff have no guarantee of work from one shift to the next.

No Responses to “Casuals causing election consternation”

  1. May 03, 2019 at 7:56 am,

    William Bell

    I think allowing casuals to become permanent is a good thing. It gives people security of tenure and confidence to make decisions around family, property etc. if a small business doesn’t want permanent staff let them stay small and businesses confident to hire staff will grow faster instead. Maybe there will be more small businesses? I support Bill Shorten on this. Employers shirk responsibility by hiring casuals and the casuals end up with personal & financial insecurity and being exploited.

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