The federal court has recently ruled that WorkPac must backpay a casual employee, Mr Rossato, for paid annual leave, personal leave, compassionate leave, and public holiday payments, which he claims he was owed as a permanent employee. Mr Rossato claimed he was entitled to these benefits because he had been a permanent employee, although engaged as a casual, working regular systematic hours.
This decision establishes a precedent that regular, long term casual employees can claim they are permanent employees are therefore owed permanent employee entitlements. The impact of this decision is significant, particularly for farmers. The risk of casual conversion is a substantial cost to employers, particularly for farms that rely on casually employed seasonal workers. To manage this risk, we recommend the farming community take the following actions:
- Review the written employment contracts of casual employees and issue written contracts if they do not have one.
- Review the working arrangements of your casual workers. If their work has become regular and systematic consider converting them to permanent (full-time or part-time status) to reduce potential risk.
- Check if the awards that cover your business have a ‘Right to request Casual Conversion’ clause and, if they do, make sure you comply with its requirements.
- Pay attention to how casual employees are rostered, if they work set hours with a degree of certainty about them it is unlikely to be ‘casual’ work.
- Assess the need for long term casual employees in your business as their costs can be more expensive than the costs of permanent employees.
Written by Danielle McNamee