Centre Alliance backs certainty for employees and small businesses

18 March 2021

Centre Alliance has advised the Government it will only support elements of the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 that will enhance protections against wage theft (Schedule 5) and that will provide certainty for casuals and their employers (Schedules 1, 7).

We need to deal with wage theft as a priority to protect workers from unscrupulous employers who seek to rip them off.

We are also acutely aware that small businesses have a massive potential backpay liability hanging over their heads due to the uncertainty surrounding how casuals are defined, which creates very real anxiety about their viability.

“This issue needs to be addressed urgently as it is causing significant confusion and stress among businesses who employ casuals, in particular small businesses,” says Senator Griff.

While the bill will retrospectively apply the meaning of casual employee, Centre Alliance will move an amendment to ensure that any casual employee who currently has a claim for unpaid entitlements before the courts can still finalise their case under existing laws.

Centre Alliance will also seek to make it easier for employees who wish to challenge an employer’s refusal of casual conversion. We have agreed to amendments to apply the bill's small claims courts process to any disputes arising over the right to casual conversion, which would allow courts to hear these disputes and to refer them to the Fair Work Commission for conciliation if appropriate. This will provide a mechanism by which casual employees - who have had their application to move from casual to permanent knocked back - can initiate a challenge in court (including the SA employment court) and require employers to participate.

Centre Alliance will not support the remaining schedules of the bill.

“This is a complex and contentious bill, and we recognise that attempting detailed amendments to the remaining parts of the bill runs the risk of unintended consequences for employees and employers,” says Senator Griff.

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