Employer groups have expressed dismay over a recent court decision that found a miner employed as a ‘casual’ was entitled to paid annual leave.
Paul Skene (pictured) was employed by labour-hire firm WorkPac as a casual to work as a driver at a Rio Tinto mine in central Queensland.
After two and a half years, he was fired and made a claim for annual leave entitlements of $21,000 arguing his work arrangement was that of a permanent employee.
Mr Skene was required to fly in and fly out of the mine on a seven day on, seven day off roster.
According to the Fair Work Act, a casual employee is not entitled to annual leave, but confusingly, the Act doesn’t define what a casual employee is.
Last week, the full bench of the Federal Court ruled that Mr Skene was entitled to the leave because he worked a continuous and regular work pattern.
The Australian Industry Group described the decision as “disappointing”, and called for the federal government to intervene and clarify the law.
“The interpretation of the Fair Work Act that the Federal Court has adopted is inconsistent with industry practice and will potentially lead to a great deal of uncertainty for business,” Innex Willox, CEO of the AIG told Fairfax.
“This in turn will not be good for jobs, including for young people who rely heavily on casual employment.”
Unions welcomed the court’s decision, which could lead to a flood of claims from casual employees for annual leave entitlements.
“This is a major blow for employers who want to use casualisation to avoid their responsibilities to their employees,” ACTU President Michele O’Neill told Fairfax.
“This decision makes clear that employers seeking to avoid paying people’s entitlements can’t simply rely on classifying workers as casuals.”
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Employer Advisors said the court decision was a wake up call for employers.
“If you want to get out of paying proper entitlements by misclassifying your workforce, you could end up paying in the long run,” he said.
“If you are going to hire people as permanent workers, then you should classify them as such and pay them accordingly.”
Mr Skene’s case is now headed back to the Federal Circuit Court which will determine how much compensation he will receive and what penalties to impose WorkPac for contravening the Fair Work Act.
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