Casual employment uncertainty needs to be addressed now to aid recovery

“For the past two years, businesses that employ casual employees have faced uncertainty and cost-risks. The Federal Court’s controversial decisions in the WorkPac v Skene and WorkPac v Rossato cases, which awarded annual leave and other entitlements to 2 employees who were engaged and paid as casuals, have become major barriers to casual jobs. The 8 or so class actions filed so far on the back of these two decisions, have made matters worse. Certainty needs to be restored without delay to encourage employers to employ the hundreds of thousands of casuals who have lost their jobs since the onset of COVID-19,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group, said.

“In evidence filed in the High Court, the Federal Government has estimated that the cost of awarding annual leave, personal/carer’s leave and redundancy pay to casuals who have worked regularly for their employer would be up to $39 billion. Not surprisingly, businesses are very worried. Many small business owners are facing financial ruin if such ‘double-dipping’ claims succeed.

“What is needed is a clear definition of a ‘casual employee’ in the Fair Work Act – one that can be ready understood and applied by employers and employees. Just as importantly, legislation is needed to prevent people who have been engaged and paid as a casual from pursuing claims for entitlements which the 25% casual loading has been paid in lieu of. Allowing ‘double-dipping’ is obviously unfair.

“The High Court’s recent decision to hear an appeal next year against the WorkPac v Rossato decision is very welcome, but the economic recovery depends on action being taken now by the Government and Parliament to restore certainty. The current uncertainty is stopping employers from hiring, and that is not in anyone’s interests,” Mr Willox said.

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