CEO Dominique Lamb

If your business employs casuals, as many retailers do, you probably have serious concerns about the recent Federal Court ruling in the matter of WorkPac v Skene. If you’re not aware of the case, I guarantee you will hear about it in coming weeks and months.  It is a case which has fundamentally changed the employment landscape in Australia.

I want to tell you the steps your association is taking to help you deal with the ramifications of the case, and also how we’re leading the retail sector in joining with other industries to fight for a political solution to the problem.

First however, here is some background for those of you who are not familiar with the case.  WorkPac is a labour hire company which employed Mr Skene as a casual on a roster set 12 months in advance.  The Federal Court recently ruled that – even though he was employed as a casual – Mr Skene was a permanent employee and was therefore entitled to paid annual leave under the National Employment Standards.

This clearly has ramifications that go far beyond the labour hire industry. It could affect any business that uses casual workers, depending on the hours they work and their rosters.  This could mean that a retail worker who has been paid a much higher hourly rate as a casual can later claim the entitlements of a permanent employee – specifically, paid leave.

WorkPac announced last week that it would not appeal the decision to the High Court, effectively allowing to stand the ruling that casual employees may be able to “double dip” by being paid a loading on their salary, and then claim later the entitlements of a non-casual staff member.

NRA is at the forefront of the joint industry effort, in concert with ACCI, to determine practical approaches to dealing with the ramifications of this case, and also to advocate government for legislative change to minimise the uncertainty that this decision has generated. We are one of four industry associations involved in the legal working group, and at present the only retail/fast food industrial association taking an active role in advocating for change.

We firmly believe that, unless and until another unfortunate business gets taken to court on the same grounds as Skene, and unless and until that case gets taken to the High Court, the only effective action is to seek legislative change. We cannot however do this alone, and we will be asking our members for their input and support to help us advocate directly to government.

I am very pleased that the NRA is leading the fight for the retail sector on this issue, and we will work very closely with other employer groups to maximise our chances of a sensible resolution.  At some stage, we may need individual retailers who are prepared to outline their concerns directly to their local MPs.  I will keep you informed as the issue progresses.

Dominique Lamb