Prepare now for proposed changes to modern awards – effective 1 October 2018

Proposed changes to modern awards in relation to casual and part-time employment are expected to come into operation on 1 October 2018.  The proposed changes are in draft form with the Fair Work Commission currently considering submissions before finalising the changes.

The main change is the insertion of a casual conversion clause into the remaining 85 modern awards that don’t already contain this provision and requirement.  Other changes are in relation to minimum engagement periods, rostering arrangements and overtime penalty rates.

The proposed changes are briefly outlined below.

Casual conversion clause

The draft casual conversion clause includes that:

  • Employers must give a copy of the casual conversion provisions to all existing casuals by 1 January 2019 and to all new casuals within 12 months of their first engagement.
  • A ‘regular casual employee’ (a casual who in the preceding 12 months worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis) may request to convert their employment to full time or part-time if that pattern of hours could continue without significant adjustment.
  • A request may only be refused on reasonable grounds and after consultation with the employee.
  • Written reasons for refusal must be provided within 21 days. Any dispute will be dealt with under the dispute resolution procedures of the award and may be referred to the Commission.
  • Employers must not engage and re-engage casuals or reduce or vary their hours to avoid rights or obligations under the clause.

Minimum engagement periods

A minimum engagement period for casual employees of 2 consecutive hours will be inserted into the remaining 30 modern awards that don’t already contain such provision.

The minimum engagement periods for casual and part-time employees contained in the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award and the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award will be increased from 3 hours to 4 consecutive hours or, if requested by the employee and agreed to by the employer, no less than 3 consecutive hours.

Rostering arrangements – Aged Care Award and Social, Community, Home Care and the Disability Services Industry Award

These awards will be amended to allow for roster arrangements and changes to be communicated by telephone, direct contact, mail, email, facsimile or any electronic means of communication.

Overtime penalty rates for casuals – Horticulture Award only

The proposed clause introduces overtime penalty rates for casuals on the basis of a 12 hour day and 38 hour week (with averaging of hours over an 8 week period).

These changes are not due to take effect on 1 October 2018.  The Commission is receiving submissions until 20 September 2018 and further hearings may be held before the proposed changes are finalised.  Various submissions have already been received by the Commission opposing the changes.

How can employers prepare for the changes?

Employers should start preparing now for the proposed changes which the Commission has indicated will take effect on 1 October 2018, including:

  • Identifying if the awards applying to your organisation will have any changes, becoming familiar with the changes and considering what they mean for your organisation.
  • In relation to the casual conversion provisions, deciding how and when to provide casuals with a copy of the provisions, deciding how requests are going to be made, decided and recorded, identifying casuals who work regular patterns and prepare for requests and communicating the changes and processes with employees.
  • If you employ casuals under the Horticulture Award, consider the proposed changes to overtime penalty rates and consider making submissions to the Commission.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the changes, importantly for assistance with the changes, or any other employment law related matter.

Disclaimer: The information contained this article is general and intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances. While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this update, Aitken Legal does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.