The government’s proposed changes to casual working laws could see pay reduced by 20 per cent, according to industry groups.
Charles Cameron, CEO of the Recruitment, Consulting, and Staffing Association (RCSA), which represents over 1,400 corporate and individual members, has voiced concerns over the changes to casual workers and casual loading.
The group is calling on the government to rule out restricting casual employment as an option for people who work regular hours but, want to do so as a casual employee.
“This new proposal from the government could remove the opportunity of casual employment for any workers who take on a new job with regular hours into the future.
“That would reduce wages available to those workers by 20 per cent, removing the option of a 25 per cent casual loading at a time when cost of living pressures are hitting hard,” said Cameron.
RCSA has urged Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke to ensure laws on casual employment meet the needs of all Australian workers and not just unionists.
“We need to make sure that people who want to, can still choose to work as a casual from the outset of their engagement, even if their hours are regular. The alternative would be to cut wages by 20 per cent for that cohort of people into the future,” said Cameron.
The Albanese Government is currently undergoing a second tranche of industrial relation changes which it proposes to introduce into the parliament during the second half of this year.
Changes to the definition of casual employment are expected in the proposal along with changes under the government’s new Workforce Reform 2023.
According to the Department of Employment and Workforce relations, Australia has around 2.7 million casual employees, accounting for around one quarter of Australia's employees.
RCSA has been actively participating in the government’s current consultation process, providing written submissions and engaging in direct meetings with the Department of Workplace Relations and the Office of the Minister for Workplace Relations.
Cameron is concerned that the Minister has only shared part of the information and is avoiding scrutiny across the full detail in the reforms.
“At this stage, the government has not tabled the legislation, so there is no detail available in response to the consultation, although the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations has spoken publicly at a high level about what we should expect in relation to changes to casual employment,” said Cameron.
Casual workers prefer to remain casual
Cameron said the casual conversion opportunities have existed for casual workers for many years yet less than four per cent of Australian workers employed by the RCSA staffing group are currently choosing to convert from casual to permanent work.
“Many Australians work in on-hire and temping capacities, and they do so because it affords them the opportunity to earn higher take home pay as a casual.
“The government needs to protect that choice for those workers into the future,” he added.
In 2021, RCSA participated in the development of new casual employment and casual conversation laws in place today and supports the casual employment definition in the current legislation, which has worked effectively in practice since its implementation.
“We employ hundreds of thousands of Australians who prefer the freedom of flexible work, and don’t want permanent employment,” Cameron said.
“It’s critical the Albanese Government make laws that benefits workers.
“If these proposals fail to reflect the way people are choosing to work, it’ll highlight just how out of touch this government is.”