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What the New IR Reform Bill Means for Small Businesses

By 20 April 2021No Comments

Note: The following article is written by Employsure, one of Australia’s largest workplace relations advisers to small-and-medium businesses. For more information on Employsure, please read the end of the article.

It didn’t meet what it set out to achieve, but the Federal Government finally delivered something for employers with their industrial relations reform bill finally passing parliament.

The bill – properly known as the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 – intended to amend five aspects of workplace relations: Award simplification; Greenfield agreements; enterprise bargaining; criminalisation of deliberate underpayments (colloquially known as ‘wage theft’); and casual employment.

In the end, changes to casual employment were the only amendments that were passed.

Changes to the Definition of Casuals

Casual employment had so far not been concretely defined by workplace relations legislation. This had partly led to court cases – such as Workpac v Rossato – where the definition of casual employment was a centrepiece of the outcome.

This act defines casuals as a person who accepts an offer of employment with no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work.

Factors determining whether there is ‘no firm advance commitment’ include whether the:

  • an employer can offer or not offer shifts and the employee can accept or reject the shifts
  • the employee will work as required according to the needs of the employer
  • employment is described as casual
  • the employee is entitled to a casual loading or casual rate of pay

Sort Your Shifts Out with BrightHR

It’s one of the most important parts of your job, but creating a roster can take hours to do – more than it should. Now with BrightHR, you can create rosters in a matter of minutes.

You can publish, share and modify employee rosters directly from our shift planning software. Your teams will receive an instant notification when a roster is published, via the BrightHR mobile app.

BrightHR also provides one clear view of staff and shifts, and one central source for all your rosters, which you and your employees can view, anytime, anywhere.

  • Avoid complex or confusing rosters with our clear and simple format
  • Amend and update rosters whilst on the move

Find out more

Double Dipping Is a Thing of the Past

The biggest win for employers out of this legislation is that it prevents casual employees from double-dipping.

Double-dipping refers to casual employees – having historically been paid casual loading – found by a court to have been, in fact, permanent employees, thereby entitling them to the entitlements that permanent employees enjoy.

The outcome for the employee is that they ‘double dipped’ –receiving back payment for entitlements they were owed for being considered a permanent employee on top of keeping their casual loading.

Now, employees whose employment contract states they are casual will remain so if they were not committed to work in advance when they accepted their offer of employment. Regular and systematic casual employment will not of itself imply permanency.

A casual remains a casual until their employment is converted to permanent employment (which may be via casual conversion), or the employee accepts an alternative offer for permanent employment.

The contracts of your employees and templated contracts for employees can be kept in one secure, safe place, accessible anytime anywhere with BrightHR.

Casual Conversion Extended

The casual conversion was first introduced for many Modern Awards over the last couple of years. Now, casual conversion has been extended to all employees in the national workplace relations system, and the obligations for employers has been changed.

Importantly, different obligations for ‘Small Employers’ and ‘Large Employers’ have been introduced. ‘Large Employers’ refers to employers with 15 or more employees. ‘Small Employers’ are those with less than 15.

Casual conversion is a complex topic which we’ll cover in a future blog; in the meantime, you can read one of our many other blogs on this topic to get an initial sense of what casual conversion entails.


For more information about the changes, please feel free to get in touch with Employsure.

You should also read their other blog about how BrightHR can help you adapt to this change.



Purnima Kabra