The March 2021 ‘casual conversion’ amendments to the Fair Work Act require that:
- Employers (except small business employers) must offer casual employees ongoing employment if they have been employed for more than 12 months and during the last six months of that period, have worked a regular pattern of hours on an ongoing basis so that they could continue to work on a part-time or full-time basis, without significant adjustment.
But the employer does not have to make the offer if they have reasonable grounds, which include:
- the employee’s position will cease to exist within the next 12 months •the hours of work will be significantly reduced during that period, or
- days or times of the job will change significantly, and the employee is not available to work at those times.Even if the employer decides not to make an offer of ongoing employment, they must give a notice to the employee explaining this and the reasons why.
By 27 September 2021, employers need to assess whether any of their existing casual employees (employed before 27 March 2021) meet these requirements. Within 21 days of completing this assessment, the employer needs to make a written offer to convert their casual employee to permanent employment or write to their employee explaining why they won’t be making an offer (no later than 27 September 2021).
Who would this apply to in schools?
Casual teachers employed for over 12 months who have worked regular days for at least the last six months could fall within the new provisions.
Until the Fair Work Commission makes a ruling that may indirectly shed light on the new provisions, it is not clear whether temporary employees would benefit.
The wording of the amendments appears to extend to temporary employees as the definition of casual employee is an employee who has been offered a job and there is no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work.
However, this consequence does not seem to have been intended by the government. Further, an offer need not be made on reasonable grounds, such as the job will cease to exist within the next 12 months, as may occur with leave replacement positions.
The union will be seeking talks with employers about the implementation of these provisions in coming weeks.