The Federal Court’s decision to order Workpac to pay a casual employee leave and public holiday entitlements despite the employee receiving casual loadings on top of his hourly rate highlights the need for urgent IR reform.
We are living in stressful and uncertain times as the full realisation of the economic devastation hits following lockdown laws in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses are vulnerable, and the rate of unemployment is rapidly rising.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Colac, Victoria, chasing a story on the closure of AKDs Irrewarra Mill. While the impact of coronavirus had well and truly hit production, it paled when compared to the devastation felt by hospitality and tourism in the shire famous for The Great Ocean Road and its rainforest hinterlands.
According to the Australian Industry Group, over 2.6 million people or 20 per cent of Australia’s workforce is employed on a casual basis. And over 50 per cent of casual employees work in tourism and hospitality. Both are industries which have been ravaged by the lockdown response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The battle is still ahead for the cafes, pubs and motels that have managed to survive as they wait for the green light to reopen.
And when they do, the hurdles to stay afloat grow more significant as they adjust to operating under strict rules and juggle to pay operating costs with a shortage of patrons.
Employers now need to consider the looming threat of legal action from casual employees who have had regular shifts for more than twelve months as well as the added expense of leave and holiday pay on top of the casual loading of 25 per cent.
To be eligible for Jobkeeper as a casual, you need to have worked for the same employer for 12 months. Employers currently supporting their employees under the Jobkeeper scheme must be wondering if they are walking into a death trap with the precedent set by the Federal Court.
There will only be a handful of winners as greedy lawyers line up with millions of dollars of class action lawsuits.
But the real victims will be the owner of the country pub, the family-owned motel or the parent working casual hours to pay the bills.
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