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Contentious casual clarification bill to be debated in parliament this week

Casual workers are soon to see some changes to their working conditions, with a long-awaited decision handed down by the Fair Work Commission setting the stage for a renewed industrial relations bill.

The FWC is recommending that casual workers should be able to convert to part- or full-time work after a year of service, and will receive overtime payments when working more than 38 hours per week. Additionally, a business should only be able to refuse a request to change from casual to part- or full-time work on reasonable business grounds.

And, with those recommendations in mind, attorney general Christian Porter will reveal the government’s new omnibus industrial relations bill to be debated in parliament this week.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra welcomed the progress, and said uncertainty around casual rights has impacted the ability of retailers to hire during the “most uncertain economic environment in decades”.

“The ARA’s consistent view, which we communicated during this process, is that it is critical for employers and employees to be given certainty,” Zahra said.

He also pointed to the Workpac v. Rossato court decision earlier this year as a moment that added even more stress to a delicate scenario.

The fallout of this decision, which could allow for billions in back-payment claims, is likely to be targeted in the new bill, according to The Guardian. The bill is to include the FWC’s recommendations, but also retroactively nullify the ability for casual workers to make industrial relations claims.

A number of Unions have already rejected the proposal, with ACTU secretary Sally McManus stating it robs casual workers of their rights in an effort to keep the power balance in favor of business.

According to The Guardian, McManus said the change will allow business to legally label someone casual, even if they are hired for a permanent, ongoing job: exactly the “fiction” the FWC’s decision sought to eliminate.

And, should an employer deny an employees wish to change to part- or full-time, there is nothing they can do about it without a right to contest the decision in the FWC.

“Casualisation is a systemic issue in the Australian workforce… the majority of casual workers are working the same hours every week, but with none of the entitlements that permanent workers can rely upon. They’re being ripped off,” McManus said.

“The proposal from the Morrison Government will not only entrench this, it will take rights off casual workers.”

According to the ACTU of the 800,000 jobs lost since the beginning of the pandemic, 500,000 were casual workers.

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