‘Permanent casual rort’ ends: $8bn payday for thousands of Aussies

Casuals entitled to paid leave in landmark decision. Source: Getty

Casual employees working full-time hours will be entitled to paid leave, setting back employers around $8 billion in back-pay claims, after a landmark ruling by the Federal Court on Wednesday. 

The decision means regular, ongoing casuals will be able to access paid annual leave, paid personal/carer’s leave and paid compassionate leave, and employers cannot claim that 25 per cent pay loadings offset those entitlements. 

The ruling in Workpac v Rossato has effectively pulled the pin on the ‘permanent casual’ work model, and means any regular work that is permanent in nature is not genuinely casual, and therefore attracts the same entitlements as permanent staff.

“This is a fantastic decision that puts an end to the ‘permanent casual’ rort that has become a scourge in the coal mining industry and across the workforce,” the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union national president Tony Maher said.

“It’s a decision that passes the pub test on what it means to be a casual and is consistent with community expectations that casual work is irregular and intermittent.”

Maher called on employers to “stop the nonsense”, and start treating casual employees on permanent hours as if they were permanent.

“When a job is full-time, regular and on-going, it is permanent and deserves the security and entitlements that come with permanent work,” Maher said.

“Our union has worked hard to clarify the law with this decision and we will now be fighting to restore rights and lost pay for casual labour hire workers across the coal mining industry who have been illegally ripped off.”

Former casual coal miner, Paul Skene, who took on WorkPac in 2016 and won back paid annual leave on the basis that he was not a genuine casual, welcomed the news.

“I’m delighted with this decision,” he said. 

“It clearly shows how casuals have been ripped off and treated like second class citizens. I’m very pleased that the law is now clear and that my case has made a difference.”  

Industrial relations minister Christian Porter said the decision would have “immediate practical implications for the bottom line of many Australians businesses at a time when so many have taken a huge hit from the Covid-19 pandemic”.

In fact, employers estimate between 1.6 and 2.2 million casuals will be affected, with a back-pay bill of around $8 billion looming.

Porter also flagged a potential appeal.

"There is of course potential for an appeal in the matter and if that were to occur, the government would closely consider the merits of intervening.

"Given the potential for this decision to further weaken the economy at a time when so many Australians have lost their jobs, it may also be necessary to consider legislative options."

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