The Government is announcing changes to employee legislation that will seek to stop casual employees from ‘double dipping’. This is when a casual employee claims entitlements such as sick leave, in addition to their casual loadings. Also, casuals typically receive a higher hourly rate to compensate for the lack of benefit and insecure employment. The rate is generally 15-25% higher than the permanent equivalent and aligns to the relevant award or agreement.

Current Casual Employee Entitlements

As it stands casual employees have a small range of entitlements in addition to their casual loading. Therefore, as per the National Employment Standards (NES) casual employees can claim the following:

  • Unpaid compassionate leave
  • Unpaid carer’s leave
  • Community service leave
  • Unpaid domestic violence leave

Long Term Casuals

Employees who classify as ‘long term casuals’ gain a few extra entitlements. Section 12 of the Fair Work Act defines this as being a casual employee regularly and systematically  for at least 12 months. Additionally, there also needs to be an expectation of ongoing employment. Thus, if you meet this criteria the NES affords you the following:

  • Access to unpaid parental leave
  • Ability to request flexible working conditions
  • Potential long service leave depending on the relevant award and state legislation

Proposed Changes

The Federal Government intends to implement a number of changes to the existing casual employee laws. The Government’s urgent action is in response to the case of Workpac v Skene, in which a casual worker was given annual leave and sick pay. Employers have concerns that the findings of this case will provoke attempts to force back payments. Therefore the contents of employee agreements will become extremely important where action is taken. The new government regulations will essentially prohibit this from occurring and provide more clarity on the definitions of casual entitlements and loadings. Any claim for additional benefits is offset against any loading the employer pays. Effectively ending the ability to ‘double dip’.

The government tries to balance these restrictions with the an employee centric provision. This allows casual employees who have been working somewhere for 12 months, to request to become a permanent or full time employee. However, the employer can reject this on reasonable business grounds, as long as they provide written justification. It may be useful to seek the advice of an employment lawyer , if you are a business owner or a casual employee with concerns relating to these changes.

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Christopher Tsiknas

Chris is a member of the content team at LawPath. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Laws at UTS. He is interested in how marketing communication strategies can influence the future of legal technology.