In March this year, CIRCLE Recruitment & HR Managing Director, Kathryn MacMillan appeared as a witness in the Four Yearly Review of Modern Awards at the Fair Work Commission, on behalf of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA).
The Australian Council of Trade Unions submitted a Draft Determination to be considered by the Commission, which seek to introduce model casual conversion terms. Around 20 awards currently contain some type of casual conversion terms, and if granted this would extend to all Modern Awards.
A casual conversion clause allows for casual employees, after a period of only six months of regular work to apply for conversion to a permanent employee. The onus would be on the employer to notify all the casuals working within the business after a six-month period of their right to convert.
If business owners do not identify and contact such casual workers, they could be liable for fines of up to $54,000 for a corporation and $10,800 for an individual per offence. Additionally, the notice has to be received by the worker within four weeks of attaining six-month tenure in the role.
Employers are not able to reduce or vary an employee’s hours of work or take any other action, in order to avoid casual conversion.
We at CIRCLE Recruitment & HR are concerned that the impact of this in every modern award will be highly detrimental to many small businesses that rely on a flexible and casual workforce to ensure their business can meet demands and stay economically viable through peaks and troughs of business cycles.
While it is true that some awards currently carry this provision, the extension of this to all awards will be very worrying to many businesses.
The RCSA are proposing that the onus upon the employer, to notify eligible employees in writing, of their entitlement to convert to permanent employment is removed. Instead, the onus to elect to convert to permanency will rest with the employee. Additionally, the RCSA proposes that the tenure for permanent conversion be increased, to fall due at twelve months service.
Furthermore, the ACTU is proposing that award clauses are inserted into all Modern Awards that stipulate ‘An employer shall not increase the number of casual or part time employees without first allowing an existing casual or part time employee engaged on similar work, whose normal working hours are less than [38 hours per week], an opportunity to increase their normal working hours by agreement.
This means in effect, that if you are a business relying on teams of casual workers to work a variety of shifts, you will not be able to take on new casuals until you have offered the extra work to every existing casual and part time employee in your employment.
Can you imagine the time and administrative burden this will place on small businesses? Of course, as in all good HR practises, you will want to retain proof that you have offered the new shifts to all employees, so you will have to devise systems to record your offers.
CIRCLE Recruitment & HR has built an enviable reputation working with businesses and employees to facilitate flexible work outcomes to the benefit of both parties over many years.
We are concerned that the unions, in trying to reduce flexible work options for businesses will in effect reduce employment and thereby reduce the number of opportunities for students, women returning to the workforce, older workers and others looking for flexibility in the workplace.
Small business is the backbone of the Australian Economy, the largest employment sector, and the starting point for many workers on their career path. We are proud to be involved in the Award Reviews at the Fair Work Commission and proud that our clients can rely on CIRCLE Recruitment & HR as an up-to-date, proactive, experienced and knowledgeable HR Partner to manage risk and promote your workplace as a great place to be!
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