Information is everything and ACAPMA is seeking more information about the use of casuals in our industry to better understand the uncertainty that has been created by recent court rulings on the employment of casuals. A one minute survey was circulated by ACAPMA last month. Many have completed it, but we are asking those who have not responded to provide their input so that we can develop a true whole of industry perspective on this issue. The survey can be completed quickly and all we ask is that take this time to tell us what you thing – or pass it onto a colleague who may not have responded yet.

The complexity of the employment landscape in Australia is compounded when businesses look to casual employment.  In the fuel industry there are definitions in the Awards of a casual employee, and provisions for employees who are ‘regular casuals’ to elect to remain regular casuals, receiving a higher hourly rate to compensate them for the lack of paid leave and the precarity of their employment.  However, there is no formal definition of a casual employee in the legislation, which leads to the absurd situation where an employee could legitimately be a casual according to the Award and a permanent employee according to the legislation, with all of the paid leave entitlements that come with that.  This dichotomy, along with recent cases adding to the confusion, is driving uncertainty for businesses and employees.

The Federal Attorney General has called a series of Roundtables, including one focused on Casuals to explore these issues and potential solutions to alleviate uncertainty and achieve a compliant and more effective operation of the employment landscape in Australia.  These Roundtables have been designed to be small in terms of participant numbers, with places allocated by invitation only.  The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) has been given a place at several of these Roundtables and COSBOA Chair and ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie will be sitting on the Panel focused on Casuals.

In addition to the uncertainty caused by recent cases and a lack of legal definition of a casual, businesses are also facing broad claims that the casualisation of the workforce is indicative of a push from selfish employers to cheat employees.  While it may be true that there are some for who such a statement may be accurate, what is understood based on industry knowledge is that for many relationships it is the employee that is making the choice to remain casual, and that choice is an informed and intelligent one, particularly given the long history of the Casual Conversion Clauses in the fuel industry Awards.  The argument that the business is forcing casualisation in all instances, and that casualisation itself is bad is one that needs examining.

“One area that is of pressing concern in the design of employment mixes within businesses is the flexibility, particularly in a retail setting, that is achievable within the context of the Award.  The fuel retail industry is plagued by harrowing complexity when it comes to permanent part time staff and the ability to effectively manage retail rosters in a 24 hour business.  What we hear from industry is that the Award itself is getting in the way of flexibility that is needed to run a retail business, and that the least complicated and most flexible option is casual staff, and even this is fraught” explained Mark McKenzie, CEO of ACAPMA.

This call for the employment system to foster and promote, not hinder, flexibility is not new, and in the face of the latest jobless figures the Prime Minister has acknowledged that businesses need clarity and flexibility if they are to weather the storm of COVID-19 and provide stimulus and employment for Australians;

“While devastated by the number, I’m sadly not surprised and we will have to brace ourselves, I suspect for further news going forward. I mentioned before the importance of the industrial relations arrangements that sit around JobKeeper. Now, businesses are going to have some difficult decisions. And they are going to need flexibility. And that means ensuring that more people can stay in jobs and if we have rigid systems then that could see people needlessly losing their jobs. We are not in usual times. We are not in usual economic circumstances.

“And as a result, we need to have arrangements, both in the income supports that the government provides but also the arrangements that are available in workplaces that can maximise the number of people that we can keep in real jobs going forward.  Where people are actually able to do work and generate income for the businesses by the work they do.  That is effectively the issue that not only the government needs to wrestle with but employers and unions and employees need to wrestle with and there needs to be more coming together to ensure we can have arrangements that mean more people can stay in their jobs, not just because of JobKeeper, but because there is an actual job and because there is the flexibility to enable people to remain in work.

“I don’t want to see people needlessly lose work as a result of those arrangements and that is why I am asking, and the Minister for Industrial Relations, the Attorney, is also asking and working to try to get the right set of arrangements that can keep more people in jobs.”

Information to effect change

ACAPMA is seeking some simple information from the industry to inform its role in these landmark Roundtables and the flexible and responsible solutions they are seeking.  Below is a link to a simple survey that seeks to understand the level of casual employment within the industry, as well as to give the industry an opportunity to explain the realities that motivate the decisions to engage casuals, the concerns about casual employment that are being felt, and the barriers to reducing casual use in the industry. 

This survey takes less than a minute to complete and will provide valuable insight to the discussions, please take a moment to complete it for ACAPMA.

Survey: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfB5zzc3328JTOFC6csyQV8TeNLB1Wq_92R2AoXrcaEY_fPXA/viewform?usp=sf_link

For more information on the Roundtables please see;

https://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/media/media-releases/roundtable-kicks-ir-reform-process-3-june-2020

ACAPMA