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Labor’s bid to scrap casual rule defeated

Labor senator Don Farrell’s push to disallow a government regulation protecting businesses from paying casual loadings and permanent entitlements has failed.

Employers have welcomed the Senate defeating Labor’s bid to sink a Morrison government regulation that stops casual workers from “double dipping” on leave entitlements.

The coalition announced the regulation last year in response to a Federal Court judgment in favour of truck driver Paul Skene, who was employed by labour hire firm WorkPac.

The court found Mr Skene, who was employed on a casual basis for two-and-a-half years, was not a casual because of his regular pattern of work and therefore entitled to an annual leave payout.

ALP senator Don Farrell tried to scrap the regulation, which allows employers to offset loading paid to casual workers against entitlements owed if the employee is later found to be permanent.

The disallowance motion was voted down 33-to-29 on Monday evening, with a handful of crossbench senators siding with the government.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson said common sense had prevailed.

“It is regrettable that employers were deliberately exposed to this reckless move, one that caused unnecessary distress and uncertainty for them,” he said in a statement.
“It was particularly disappointing, and hopefully a one-off, to see any party dismiss offhand the genuine concerns of the small business community.”

Senator Farrell argued against claims from business groups that the ruling would open the floodgates of workers claiming casual loading and leave entitlements.

“Any double dipping here has been performed by the employer because they’ve taken advantage of the insecurity of casual work while still getting permanent hours out of their workforce for less cost,” he told parliament.

Senator Farrell said the court had found Mr Skene was not a casual and in fact was paid 29.4 per cent less than equivalent full-time employees, even with the casual loading.
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the opposition was determined to “cripple” employers by reintroducing “double dipping”.

“Labor needs to ask itself why it wants to wind-back the clock on this issue and expose employers to what industry groups estimate would be an $8 billion hit to their bottom lines,” he said.

“And it is mum and dad business owners who would be hit hardest as small businesses employ about 80 per cent of Australia’s casual workers.”

The Greens also supported Labor’s motion, with senator Mehreen Faruqi slamming the government for attacking workers.

“Insecure work is wrecking people’s lives, yet this government is only about protecting big business,” she said.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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