Employment Law Update: Your casual employees may be entitled to ask to go fulltime!
Assisted by Holly Pitt
What has happened?
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has made a decision to insert a 'casual conversion' clause into 85 modern awards that do not already have such a provision.
This will enable casual employees covered by those awards, and who meet the eligibility criteria, to request to convert to fulltime or part-time employment. Employers should be aware of these changes in the awards that apply to them, but should note that they can refuse these requests on ‘reasonable grounds’.
What will this conversion clause look like?
The model conversion clause, as drafted by the Commission has a qualifying period of 12 months. This means that a casual employee will need to have worked for a period of 12 months, in a pattern of hours similar to fulltime or part-time employment (ie not random and unpredictable) before a request can be made. The Australian Council of Trade Unions pushed for casual conversion options after six months of casual employment, but was knocked back by the FWC.
The proposed new clause will oblige employers to advise casual employees of the possibility of conversion within the first 12 months of their engagement, even if the employee may not qualify because of their work pattern.
What would be ‘reasonable grounds’ for declining a request for conversion?
An employer will be able to refuse a casual employee’s request to convert to fulltime or part-time employment if:
- the change would require significant adjustment to their hours of work under the award;
- it is known, or reasonably foreseeable, that the casual employee's position will cease to exist; and,
- the employee's hours of work will significantly change or be reduced within the next 12 months.
Although a model conversion clause has been drafted, the Commission is still accepting further submissions and proposals for the contents of the conversion clause. Changes will, most likely, not take any effect until after August, 2017.
However, as an employer, you should begin considering the effect of this conversion clause on your casual employees. To which employees might this apply? How will you respond if you receive requests for conversion?
If you would like to review the situation of your casual employees and how the right to seek conversion may apply in your circumstances, please contact: