Conversion to full-time employment may soon become easier for casual employees

A Bill was introduced to the House of Representatives last month that proposes to allow casual employees to convert to full-time or part-time employment if they have worked a ‘regular pattern of hours’ for at least 12 months. If the Bill is passed, there will be several implications for bowls clubs who employ casual staff, including the need for them to either grant or refuse a request for Casual Conversion within 21 days.

With many clubs employing a high percentage of casual workers, the potential changes are worth noting. My colleague, employment law expert Sam McIvor, explains how these changes could impact your club.

The Bill follows last year’s decision by the Fair Work Commission, which meant that a new standard conversion clause was incorporated into 85 Modern Awards. The Bill seeks to ensure that all eligible employees will have access to a right to request casual conversion, ncluding employees that are not covered by a Modern Award or an Enterprise Agreement.

What is casual conversion?

Casual conversion is where a casual employee is given the right to request a full-time or part-time position after a certain period of employment, subject to certain prerequisites.

When can an employee make a request for casual conversion?

The Bill provides that casual employees may make a request to their employer in writing to convert to full-time or part-time employment if the employee:

  • is designated as a casual employee by their employer for the purposes of any fair work instrument that applies to them (e.g. Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement), or their contract of employment; and
  • has, in the 12 months before giving the request to their employer, worked a regular pattern of hours on an ongoing basis which, without significant adjustment, the employee could continue to work as a full-time or part-time employee.

What will employers need to do if they receive a request for casual conversion?

The Bill provides that an employer must give a written response to an employee’s request for casual conversion within 21 days after the request is made, stating whether the employer grants or refuses the request.

An employer must not refuse a request for casual conversion unless they have consulted the employee and there are reasonable business grounds to refuse the request. The Bill provides the following examples of what constitutes reasonable business grounds for refusing a casual conversion request:

  • granting the request would require a significant adjustment to the employee’s hours of work in order for the employee to be engaged as a full-time or part-time employee;
  • the employee’s position will cease to exist within 12 months after giving the request;
  • the hours of work which the employee is required to perform will be significantly reduced within 12 months after giving the request;
  • there will be a significant change in the days on which and/or the times at which the employees hours of work are required to be performed within 12 months after giving the request.

There may be other reasonable grounds for refusing a request, including grounds that are specific to the particular workplace or the employee’s role. Whether a ground is reasonable is to be assessed by taking into account all of the circumstances, including the needs of the employer’s business and the nature of the employee’s role.

When will the new laws come into effect?

Not just yet. The Bill has been referred to the Education and Employment Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 26 March 2019. Mullins will provide an update on our website and LinkedIn page if the Bill is passed, however please contact me if you would like to discuss how this could impact your club.

“The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.”
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