Question: I have employed several employees on a casual basis for more than 12 months. I’ve heard that as of 1 October 2018, Award-covered casual employees are entitled to request conversion to part-time or full-time employment. What does this mean for me and what are my legal obligations?
Answer: On 1 October 2018, all Awards (that did not already have a casual conversion clause in it) were varied to include a casual conversion clause.
The casual conversion clause provides that a person who is engaged by an employer as a “regular casual employee” may request that their employment be converted to part-time or full-time employment.
A person is a “regular casual employee” if, in the preceding period of 12 months, they have worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis which, without significant adjustment, the employee could continue to perform as a part-time or full-time employee.
The casual conversion clause in the applicable Award sets out the process that a regular casual employee must follow to request conversion, as well as the employer’s obligations when such a request is made.
Generally speaking, where a request for conversion is made, an employer will have to agree to the request unless there are “reasonable grounds” to refuse the request and the employer has consulted with the employee about those reasonable grounds.
“Reasonable grounds” for refusing a request include where:
- The request would require a significant adjustment to the casual employee’s hours of work in order for them to properly be engaged as a part-time or full-time employee – that is, they are not a “regular casual employee”;
- The employer knows, or it is reasonably foreseeable, that the hours of work that the regular casual employee performs will be significantly reduced within the next 12 months; or
- The employer knows, or it is reasonably foreseeable, that there will be significant changes in the days and/or times that the employee’s hours of work will be required within the next 12 months.
You should seek tailored legal advice to ensure that you properly understand what your specific obligations and rights are. It is important to note that, regardless of whether your casual employee is a ‘regular casual employee’ or not, you are obligated to provide all of them with a copy of the casual conversion clause within the first 12 months of their first engagement to perform work. For those casual employees who were already employed as at 1 October 2018, you are obligated to provide them with a copy of the clause by 1 January 2019.