Feb 2019 | Proposed law ignites stoush over casual employees

Date: 13 Feb 2019 

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Proposed federal government laws aimed at clarifying the rights of casual employees have sparked a fresh debate about whether the legislation could hand employers greater freedom to classify workers as casuals.

The federal government on Wednesday introduced proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act to parliament. The bill would provide casual employees with a right to request permanent employment and includes a clause stating that a worker can be treated as a casual employee if "designated" as such by their employer.

The proposed changes would formalise a decision of the Fair Work Commission last year giving casual employees the right to request full-time or part-time employment.

Labour law professor Shae McCrystal, of the University of Sydney, said the wording of the legislation could cause a fresh problem though as the current laws required a much broader test of who could be classified as a casual.

"The reference to an employer delegating an employee as a casual in their contract of employment could have very significant implications if it was subsequently interpreted as giving employers the ability to designate workers as casual under contract," she said.

'This seems a quite concerning potential development."