Fair Work Commission Conversion Ruling: is it REALLY a Better Deal for Casual Workers?

A better deal for Casual Workers? Maybe…

On July 5 this year, the Fair Work Commission (FWC), delivered a new ruling whereby, subject to various restrictions, casual workers across an additional 85 awards (heavily based in retail & hospitality), are able to request work status conversion to full-time or part-time, after 12 months.

This is part of the FWC’s four-yearly review of modern awards.

Unions saw this as a win: the potential for greater job security for its members, and addressing what has become known as the ‘casualisation’ of the Australian workforce.

Conversion from casual to permanent work status, is nothing new: in manufacturing for example, this provision has been in place since the early 2000’s.

So how does the ruling work?

Firstly, it’s not law (yet). But the changes mean casual employees can request permanent positions with their employer, based on various provisos. The most significant of these, is that the casual employee has been working a consistent schedule of hours over the past 12 months with the same employer.

But by no means, does it entitle or guarantee the worker conversion of their work status. Why?

According to Australian Industry Group CEO, Innes Wilcox….

fair work commission casual workers

And from law firm, Slater & Gordon, there are multiple grounds for an employer to refuse an employee’s request for permanent status. Specifically:

fair work commission casual workers

(Source: ABC News)

Clearly it’s the last point (above), that employees need to be mindful of. There’s a fear from the Unions that this will be used by employers to refuse permanent work status to casuals, based on whatever grounds they see fit.

Employers do have a responsibility though: they are required to tell casuals that, after 12 months of consistent hours, they can request permanent work status. But ultimately, the power still rests with the employer – they can say ‘no’ if they have ‘reasonable grounds’.

And keep this in mind as well: many casuals simply don’t want permanent work status. The benefits of casual employment (flexibility, loading), appeal to an increasingly independent workforce who are seeking greater control over their worktime. The relative advantages of being permanent – paid leave, regular hours, job security – are not necessarily more appealing any longer.

As a result, it’s anticipated the impact on the labour market may not be big at all. Casual workers in manufacturing, having had access to this law for over 15 years now, haven’t marched in droves to seek permanent work status. Hence on this basis, we’re unlikely to see a seismic shift in the construct of affected areas of the casual labour market, for now.

What are your thoughts? We’re keen to hear, so lets us know in the comments.