New rights for casual employees – what you need to know

From 1 October 2018 new rights that apply to casuals have come into effect which employers should be aware of.

The Fair Work Commission has introduced a model casual conversion term which has been inserted into approximately 85 Awards. Awards which already contain a casual conversion clause will remain unchanged.

Under the Model Term casual employees who have worked a regular pattern of hours for at least 12 months, without significant adjustment, have the right to request their employment be converted to permanent full-time or part-time employment.

The Model Term requires the request be made in writing, and employers must respond within 21 days of the request being made. Where granted, the conversion must be recorded in writing and will take effect from the next pay cycle (unless otherwise agreed).

Employers can only refuse a request on reasonable grounds, for example, if it is known or reasonably foreseeable that the hours of work of the casual employee will significantly change in the next 12 months. An employee has the right to challenge any refusal using the dispute resolution provisions in the relevant Award.

Importantly employers also have an obligation to provide new casual employees with a copy of the Model Term within 12 months of employment, and for existing casual employees, employers have until 1 January 2019 to provide them with a copy of the Model Term.

Some Awards do differ, and employers should review the Award which applies to their workplace to determine how a request for casual conversion must be managed in their individual circumstances. For example, under the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010 an employer is required to give notice in writing of the casual conversion clause within four weeks of an employee working 6 months on a regular and systematic basis.

In addition to the introduction of the right to convert from casual to permanent employment, approximately 27 Awards were amended to include minimum engagement periods for casuals. Depending on the Award, the minimum engagement period is now generally between 2-4 hours.

What should employers do now?

  • Review the Awards which apply to your workplace and familiarise yourself with the new requirements;
  • Consider implementing an audit system to ensure compliance with the obligation to provide casuals with a copy of the Model Term within 12 months of employment and any minimum engagement periods;
  • Consider and respond to any request by a casual employee to convert to permanent employment.

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