The shake-up aims to address disquiet among Queensland National marginal seat holders and potent attacks from unions and Bill Shorten, who has capitalised on fears of the casualisation of the Australian workforce.
The shake-up aims to address disquiet among Queensland National marginal seat holders and potent attacks from unions and Bill Shorten, who has capitalised on fears of the casualisation of the Australian workforce.

Crucial new weapon for frustrated casual workers

AUSTRALIA'S 2 million casual workers will be able to take legal action if bosses refuse to give them full or part-time work without a good reason, as the Federal Government moves to neutralise a key Labor attack.

Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O'Dwyer will today announce a shake-up to casualisation laws while also snuffing-out a potential $8 billion in backpay to "double-dipping" workers.

The shake-up aims to address disquiet among Queensland National marginal seat holders and potent attacks from unions and Bill Shorten, who has capitalised on fears of the casualisation of the Australian workforce.

The Government will legislate to allow regular casual employees who have worked for a year or more the right to request to move to full-time or part-time work.

Casual employees will have the right to request full or part-time work.
Casual employees will have the right to request full or part-time work.

A Fair Work Commission decision late last year gave the right to 1.5 million casual employees, many of whom do not know about the change.

The Government will introduce laws to extend that right to the remaining 500,000 casual workers, many who work in the mining, retail and hospitality sector.

The FWC decision only applied to some awards and this will bridge the gap.

Allowing casuals to request full-time or part-time work provides a formal mechanism for change. It means bosses must provide reasonable grounds as to why they cannot hire staff on a part-time or full-time basis. It also gives workers the chance to review the decision through the FWC or courts.

Dawson MP George Christensen, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd have been battling for the change since 2013 after Julia Gillard introduced an overhaul to industrial relations awards.

Mr Christensen said he showed Ms O'Dwyer letters from constituents, who had been employed as casual workers on full-time hours for years but had no holiday or sick leave entitlements.

He said miners and other blue-collar workers had, through tears, revealed they had to choose between going to funerals or paying the bills.

Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O'Dwyer.
Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O'Dwyer.

Ms O'Dwyer said many people were concerned about job security.

"If award-reliant employees have the right to make a request and it is subject to reasonable

safeguards for employers, it is only fair that the same right is extended to other casuals who

currently do not have the same right,'' she said.

Ms O'Dwyer will also ask Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to sign-off on a regulation to stop double-dipping by casual employers.

It was sparked after the Federal Court in August ruled Queenslander Paul Skene was not a casual employee and should have been paid annual leave entitlements.

Mr Skene was employed by WorkPac, a labour hire company, as a casual dump truck mine operator in central Queensland and received a 25 per cent loading.

When his employment was terminated in 2012, he successfully lodged an application with the Federal Circuit Court for compensation for unpaid leave.

It sparked businesses to warn they would face up to $8 billion in backpay.

Ms O'Dwyer said the regulation would prevent double-dipping.

"Every employer must comply with their legal obligations, but being forced to pay for entitlements twice is unfair and potentially crippling for many small businesses," she said.



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