Doms Column

There is currently a case before the Federal Court that could have real ramifications for small businesses across Australia.

First, a bit of background. In August this year the Federal Court found that a casual truck driver previously employed by labor hire company WorkPac was entitled to back pay for entitlements traditionally reserved for permanent staff (e.g. annual leave).

The court found that although the worker was employed as a casual, they were also entitled to paid leave entitlements since they worked a regular roster for a prolonged period. This is known as ‘double dipping’, whereby the worker gains access to entitlements reserved for permanent staff as well as the higher rate of pay they receive as a casual.

So why does this case matter to retailers?

Simple – it could easily end up affecting all industries (including retail) that employ staff on a casual basis. Allowing casual employees to double dip would impact on the profitability of small businesses and therefore how many casual staffing spots are offered.

The retail sector is one of the highest employers of casual workers. Many of these roles are filled by young workers obtaining a foot in the door to paid employment. Christmas is just around the corner and retailers should be looking to hire casual workers to cope with the increased business, but the lack of certainty created by this case jeopardises this.

The retail sector needs clarity, certainty and confidence that the WorkPac ruling will not set a precedent for employer obligations regarding casual workers in other industries.

It is for this reason that the NRA welcomed Federal Minister Kelly O’Dwyer’s announcement that she will be intervening in the current case before the Federal Court. In this instance, WorkPac has launched a separate test case involving another employee to seek clarity on the matter.

I’m pleased to also say that NRA Deputy CEO Lindsay Carroll has met with the Minister in Canberra and the NRA remains the only retail organisation advocating on this issue.

If you have a view on this issue or casual employment more broadly please do not hesitate to contact the NRA’s legal team. We can also field any queries you may have and provide further updates on how this matter is progressing.

In the meantime, the NRA will continue to advocate for the necessary legislation to be enacted to address the issue of double dipping.