Redefining of casual work in Australia spark concerns over flexibility and pay

Changes to casual work risk exclude individuals with regular work patterns, reducing flexibility and pay for university students, retirees, and others.
By: | July 10, 2023

The Australian government’s proposed changes to the definition of casual work have sparked concerns about the potential impact on flexibility and higher take-home pay for casual employees.

Casual work has been a popular choice for one in four Australians for nearly two decades due to the flexibility and higher pay it offers, according to the Business Council of Australia. However, the proposed changes could introduce a new test that may exclude individuals with regular work patterns from being classified as casual employees. This could affect university students, retirees, and others who rely on casual work to fit their changing schedules and make ends meet.

Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia, warned that restricting casual work would reduce opportunities for millions of Australians and burden organisations, especially small enterprises, with excessive paperwork and complexity. Casual work plays a critical role in matching staffing to customer demands, particularly in retail and hospitality, and contributes to the resilience and competitiveness of businesses, she added.

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As discussions on the pending 2023 Fair Work Amendment Bill continue, Westacott said that the proposed changes also raise concerns about the potential reclassification of casual employees as permanent employees. This could result in lower hourly rates and fixed working rosters, limiting shift-change flexibility. The economic challenges faced by Australia, such as rising living costs and concerns about a recession, make it crucial to maintain the flexibility and higher pay that casual work provides.

Any redefinition of the casual employment classification would overturn the clear and reliable test introduced just two years ago, which granted casual workers the right to choose conversion to full or part-time roles, she said. “What we need is a vision that demonstrates how Australians can get ahead, not the roadblocks to flexibility and workplace innovation the government is proposing.”