If you’re a small business owner, it’s important to understand your obligations when it comes to casual workers. As of 1st October this year, a new standard clause was introduced to 84 awards, around the topic of casual conversion.

Casual conversion simply means the ability for a casual employee to request a permanent full time or part-time position after a certain period of employment. This is a significant change and one which business owners need to be aware of, particularly in industries where casual employment is high, such as hospitality and retail. Could this clause impact the way you employ, manage and roster casual staff?

What does this mean for your business?

If you have a casual employee who has worked for you for 12 months and they have engaged in regular casual shifts, they are entitled to switch to a permanent position and receive all the benefits that follow.

Am I obliged to convert my casual staff to permanent?

No, you can refuse the request on reasonable grounds, such as:

  • The employee is not a regular casual employee. See the Fair Work Ombudsman’s definition of a casual worker
  • The position is unlikely to exist within the next 12 months
  • The hours of work for the position are likely to significantly reduce in the next 12 months
  • It is expected that the hours of work required will change significantly in the next 12 months, and will not coincide with the employee’s availability

If you do decide to refuse the request, you must provide the employee with valid reasons in writing within 21 days of the request.

The practical implications of this change for businesses, in reality, are probably going to be small. Most casual employees are casual because they want the extra 25% and are looking for the flexibility that comes with a casual position, so they are probably not going to ask for casual conversion. However, it is important for businesses to be aware of their obligations should they receive requests from their staff.