Industrial Relations Reform Leaves a Mark on Casuals

Recently proposed reforms to Australia’s industrial relations framework have incited controversy both within Parliament and across a variety of professional sectors. The omnibus bill has been slammed by the country’s peak union body, which has outspokenly criticised the legislation for reducing the rights of casual workers. Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter unveiled the reform bill after months of collaborative development with a number of other unions and employer groups.

Industrial Relation Reform Background

Designed by the Morrison government looking for ways to bolster Australian economic recovery and job creation, the reform bill has attracted the attention of both supporters and opponents. The economic downturn which accompanied the COVID-19 global health crisis has had long standing ramifications for markets across the world.

Although currently in a relatively strong position compared to contemporaries around the globe, Australians continue feeling the aftershock of the pandemic. Despite its importance in alleviating individuals’ and organisations’ financial burdens, the JobKeeper scheme was heavily scrutinised for its differential treatment of full-time and part-time workers. Many regard the key implication of the Industrial Relations Reform to be that casuals have been left with even fewer safety nets than they had previously.

Implications for Casuals

Casual employees were those hit most substantially by the pandemic, accounting for more than 50% of jobs lost throughout COVID-19. Critics of the reform have voiced concern that the changes work to remove further rights from casual workers. Specifically, employers’ classification of workers as casual means they do not owe as many entitlements and securities as they otherwise would if they were part-time or full-time.

Misclassification of part-timers as casuals is another serious issue plaguing Australian workers. Pertinently, the industrial relations reform gives employers more freedom to misuse these employee classifications to their advantage.

Mixed Responses

Supporters endorse the reform as one which improves job security, enhances employee choice and eliminates confusion around casual job capacities. Liberal MP Porter defended the reform by arguing that employers are currently hesitant to execute recruitment and hiring because of legal confusion around the areas.

While the bill aims to get more Australians back to work over its implementation, significant opposition has also come to light as concerns continue to be raised about the reduction of worker rights. There is particular backlash to this aspect of the reform, given the disastrous results of leaving workers without basic rights like sick leave, both in Australia and around the world throughout the COVID saga. 

As Australians balance economic recovery with limiting infectious disease transmission, questions remain over the future of the state of employment. The Industrial Relations Reform represents a controversial bill – whose likeability is dependent on individuals’ employment status and political leaning.

 

If you wish to discuss any of the above matters or have any other questions about the Industrial Relations Reform, get in contact with the team from Lockwood Partners.

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