Parliament passes Omnibus Bill

By 23 March, 2021 No Comments

Key Takeaways

  • The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021 has been passed by Parliament, albeit in a significantly compromised form that what was originally proposed.
  • The Bill will make key changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) in relation to casual employment, part-time flexibility and enterprise agreements.

The much anticipated Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021 (Bill) was passed in Parliament on Monday 22 March 2021 after months of heated discussion and several rounds of amendments.

The passing of the Bill comes as the end of the JobKeeper Scheme looms and there is a real sense of increased anxiety amongst businesses about the ongoing effects of the Federal Court decisions in Rossato and Skene regarding casual employment.

What are the changes?

The Bill will result in a number of key changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) in relation to casual employment including:

  • introducing a definition of ‘casual employee’ into the act for the first time which focuses on the offer and acceptance of employment rather than the employee’s pattern of work after their engagement;
  • adding an entitlement for regular and systematic casual employees to request to be moved to full or part-time employment in the National Employment Standards; and
  • allowing the Courts to offset any casual loading paid to the employee against any claim for unpaid entitlements (e.g. annual leave or personal leave) where it is found that an employee was properly characterised as a permanent employee.

The Bill will also allow employers to issue eligible employees covered by a modern award with directions regarding their duties and location of work, prohibit employers from advertising jobs with rates of pay that are less than the national minimum wage and bolster the Fair Work Commission’s powers to dismiss frivolous and vexatious claims.

What does this mean for businesses?

The Bill will provide greater certainty to employers and employees regarding casual employment but also provide a pathway to secure permanent employment. Whilst this has been a feature in many modern awards for some time, the right of casual conversion will now apply to award free workers.

Businesses should take this opportunity to review their staffing arrangements and identify any regular and systematic casuals who may be eligible for casual conversion.

Pragma Lawyers can provide advice to you and your business to help minimise your risk. Contact us today by clicking here or call us (08) 6188 3340.