Release type: Transcript

Date:

6PR Mornings – Interview with Gareth Parker

Ministers:

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business

E&OE 

Subject/s:  Casual Workers, National Skills Commission Report, and JobTrainer.  

GARETH PARKER: Changes to the way that casuals are potentially employed are coming. If you’re a casual employee, would you rather be a full-time employee or a part-time permanent employee? 922-11-882. The Employment Minister is Michaelia Cash. Minister, Good morning.

MINISTER CASH: Good morning and good morning to your listeners. 

GARETH PARKER: Thank you very much for your time. So, the details of this new industrial relations bill will go into the Parliament this week. But for the first time, there’s a definition of a casual employee and there is also, I guess, a pathway forward to take you from being a casual to a part-time or full-time permanent employee. Just explain it. 

MINISTER CASH: That’s exactly right. So the bill itself has one simple goal and that’s to help drive jobs growth as we move out of COVID-19. As part of that goal, Australia has around 2.3 million casual employees, but currently what we have is no actual definition of casual employment in the Fair Work Act. This has been long called for by businesses, business groups and unions. And so, what we now propose to do, and this, of course, comes off the back of the Attorney-General's extensive consultations will now establish a statutory definition of casual employment in the Fair Work Act. What we’ll do is create a new minimum standard for casual conversion so that casuals who work regular shift patterns can move – and this is important – only if they want to, completely voluntary, to part-time or full-time employment after 12 months. Again, this is completely voluntary, because as you know, there are many, many people out there, and when you have 2.3 million casual employees who like working casual hours, who like the casual shifts, and may opt to remain as casual employees.

GARETH PARKER: So, if you went to part-time or full-time, you might see a reduction in your hourly rate, but you would see you know sick leave and all those sorts of things…

MINISTER CASH: You’d get the leave entitlements. That's exactly right. A lot of casuals that I talk to they are very, very happy with the additional loading that they get via being a casual. But then again, there are some who have been, as you know, long-term casuals. They're working the regular shifts and certainly for them, there is benefit in putting their hands up and saying: you know, I'll think I'll move to permanent part-time or permanent employment, and forego the additional loading, as now I'm entitled to annual leave, sick leave, et cetera. 

GARETH PARKER: Do you think employers will be keen to take this up, or might it actually result in people or employers parting ways with their casuals before the obligation to make them permanent kicks in?

MINISTER CASH: Well, what we're proposing is based on the extensive consultation that the Attorney-General himself has done with both businesses and with unions. I think the issue has been there is no definition of casual. That is actually what is causing the confusion. Of course, you have the confusion created by the Rossato case, which means that people now may well have to pay up for both the casual loading plus the leave entitlements. So, very much what we're seeking to do here is get rid of that uncertainty. And I think given that period of 12 months before you can request that conversion, it really does give both businesses and those on the employee side, what they're looking for.

GARETH PARKER: The ACTU Secretary Sally McManus is saying that this will actually do the opposite of what the Government intends. She says that it will entrench casual and insecure work. How do you respond to that?

MINISTER CASH: Oh, well, I just can't see it doing that because, again, what you're being offered is employers will be required to offer conversion after 12 months. If the employee puts their hand up to take that up, well, the good news is they can move to either the full-time or the part-time employment up. But the key here is they don't have to. This is still optional for employees; 2.3 million casual employees. This is about giving certainty to their work arrangements and their entitlements. 

This is something that when Labor changed the Fair Work Act back in 2009, they didn't put in a definition of casual. And since that time, you know, as you know and as your listeners would know, nobody's really known. Am I a casual? Am I not a casual? Am I getting paid the entitlements that I’m meant to be getting? So what this does is after that extensive consultation, it brings certainty to that definition. And I think that's a good thing because that's what employers have been screaming out for.

GARETH PARKER: Alright. I'd like to hear from you if you are a casual this morning: 922-11-882. If you’ve been in your existing jobs for more than a year, would you want to go to permanent full-time or permanent part-time? We've had these discussions in the past and I recall people ringing up saying: look, I'd love to go full-time, but I'm still on a casual roster, a casual basis. Others may well want to keep it that way because they like the extra pay, they appreciate the flexibility. Give me a call about that. My guest is Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash.

You’ve also got new data out today about the jobs that have been the most resilient throughout this pandemic year. And it’s perhaps not that surprising that healthcare tops the list.

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. Look, this is the second major report by the new National Skills Commission, which I set up as the Skills Minister. And what it does is it really explores the nature of Australia's labour market and the skills recovery. It shows that COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on our labour market. But I think that anybody reading the report, what it says is there is cause for optimism. In particular, what it does is it sets out the industries with resilient occupations. And you are right, I don't think anyone will be surprised that health care and social assistance, education and training, construction, mining, transport, postal, and warehousing they are those industries that very much looking forward, are where many jobs will be created. But what we want to do with the National Skills Commission is give Australia and Australians the opportunity to go, ‘right, we've now, for the first time ever, got data that understands in real time what's happening in the labour market’. So, if I'm looking at where do I want to be in five years, in 10 years, pretty much if there was another pandemic, will I have a job? This is what this report does. And at the same time, it ties into what we're doing is, you know, with our $1 billion JobTrainer fund, saying to people we want you to skill up in areas of demand so that we are actually skilling you to get a job, which is what the Government's all about - getting people the training they need to get into a job.

GARETH PARKER: Well, I mean, would you advise school leavers or their parents to look at this list carefully as they’re trying to make their career decisions?

MINISTER CASH: Oh, look, absolutely. And as I said, again, you look at the plethora of different types of industries. I mean, health care and social assistance, you know, there are so many different jobs available within health care and social assistance. You know, a medical practitioner, speech professional, midwife, age and disable carers, you know, you go down the list, education and training. How many jobs have we got at the moment in construction, mining, transport, logistics? You know, IT in particular, cyber security. There are so many different, you know, job opportunities available. And when you look at this list, you just have that added layer of comfort that they are industries with resilient occupations that will see you through any future pandemic and into the future. 

GARETH PARKER: The Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, thank you for your time.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you.

GARETH PARKER: The Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, 922-11-882.