Policy…who really likes to hear that word? I suspect not too many people in the workplace (except for HR people!). Last year saw some changes in the employment landscape that employers need to be up to speed with. Whether your policies are written or not, you need to understand what your legal responsibilities are towards your employees. Here is a very quick summary of two new employment obligations:
Domestic and Family Violence Leave provisions are now available to all employees, having been added to the National Employment Standards. The Fair work amendment took affect on 12th December, 2018. (From 1st August, 2018, Award employees had access to this leave.) Employees, including part-time and casual employees, can access this leave if they are experiencing domestic and family violence and/or caring for someone in their immediate family or household who is experiencing domestic and family violence. 5 unpaid days of leave are available per year (a year = commencement of employment to employment anniversary). See the Fair Work website for more information, including reasonable evidence requests and additional information as to who constitutes a “close relative” for the purposes of accessing this leave.
Don’t just think ‘policy’ though. Consider how you as an employer will support any affected employees.
Casual conversion anyone? Did you know that from 1st October, 2018, new casual employees commencing in your business must receive a casual conversion clause – if their employment is governed by one of the 85 or so affected Awards? The 1st January, 2019 was the deadline set for your existing casual Award employees to receive their casual conversion clause. If you haven’t yet done this, you can find the relevant Award online at Fair Work’s Award finder and save a copy of the newly inserted clause. (Your HR Partner can also assist employers in the area of casual conversion.)
What does it all mean? If you have casuals who have worked with you with reasonable regularity for a period of 12 months, they are likely to have the right to request a permanent position for the same number of hours per week or employment cycle that they have worked as a casual. For example, a casual who has regularly worked around 25 hours per week, can request permanent part-time at 25 hours.
An employer can refuse based only on reasonable business grounds. These may include known and significant changes to the casual position within the next 12 months (e.g. the position may not exist or hours will substantially reduce etc.). There are limited reasons that an employer can refuse a casual conversion, so be sure that any refusal is according to significant and relevant business limitations or the limitations of the future of the position. An employee must make the request for casual conversion in writing. An employer has 21 days (not business days), to respond to the employee in writing if the employer cannot facilitate this request. Otherwise, agreement must be reached and put in writing.
As an employer, you will appreciate the flexibility of having a casual workforce. However, consider how permanent employment will benefit your business and working relationships. Often an employee will feel more secure having set hours and this can improve commitment. Just be sure to keep some “true casuals” on hand to cover those periods of increased work, sick-leave, annual leave, etc.
For help on-the-job at your workplace, contact Your HR Partner. We can support you with your obligations 🙂