Industrial relations omnibus bill passes Senate

Thursday 18 March 2021

I am pleased to share that this afternoon the Government’s industrial relations omnibus bill which passed the Australian Senate with a 35-33 vote, included important casual employment changes which will deliver certainty for retail.

Casual employment has been an area of strong advocacy for our members over the past year, with the ARA making a significant contribution to the casual employment working group with the Attorney General. Casual employment changes were the only changes that passed the Senate this afternoon.

Having a clear definition of a casual employee is a significant win. It sets a clear path for casual employees to transition to permanent roles if they wish, while protecting retailers from unfair ‘double-dipping’ claims which would have led to mass business closures and job losses.

More broadly, this industrial reform, included the following changes:

Schedule 1 – Casual Employment was amended to do the following:

  • Section 15A(2)(b) (casual definition), which was of concern to ACCI and members was refined to provide further clarity to business (previously ‘whether the person will only work as required’ – now amended to ‘whether the person will work as required according to the needs of the employer’).

  • 12 month conversion remains, but small businesses (less than 15 employees) are exempt from having to offer conversion (note that employees can still convert, the administrative burden under the Act on small business employers has been removed).

  • New provisions permitting small claims process (via the Federal Court) to resolve casual conversion disputes including reasonable business grounds, casual conversation requests and business refusal.

  • No amendments to double dipping provisions, meaning doubling dipping fix for all cases (including those currently on foot).

  • A review of the changes contained in the final Bill as passed after 12 months.

Next steps:

The Bill will return to the House of Representatives, where it is expected that the Bill will pass in its amended form.

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