“The class action claim against WorkPac, filed in the Federal Court yesterday on behalf of CFMMEU members, demonstrates the need for legislative change to define a ‘casual employee’ in the Fair Work Act. It is blatantly unfair for an employee who has been engaged as a casual and paid as a casual to claim years of backpay for annual leave entitlements. Everyone knows that casual loadings are paid in lieu of annual leave,” Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.
“The CFMMEU’s claims against WorkPac will heighten the concerns of businesses about the risk of very costly, unfair ‘double-dipping’ claims by casuals. 80% of casuals are employed by small and medium sized businesses and the majority of casuals work regular hours. The potential claims threaten the viability of many businesses and the jobs of thousands of employees.
“The Fair Work Commission’s longstanding definition of a ‘casual employee’ is ‘an employee engaged and paid as such’. This definition is included in numerous awards. It is well understood by employers and employees and reflects industry practice. The definition could be readily included in the Fair Work Act with a simple legislative amendment.
“In addition, the Government needs to introduce legislation to address the explosion in class actions being pursued against employers, often funded by overseas litigation funding firms chasing super-profits at the expense of the Australian community. Two reforms are particularly important. First, litigation funders need to be regulated through the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Second, reasonable limits need to be imposed on returns to plaintiff lawyers and litigation funders.
“It is not in anyone’s interests for our laws to operate unfairly on businesses. The current uncertainty about casual employment and Australia’s lax class action laws are impacting on investment and employment, and need to be addressed without delay,” said Mr Willox.