Commission knocks back bid for more flexible part-time contracts

Employer groups’ push for greater flexibility in contracts and rostering for part-time aged care workers has been rejected by the Fair Work Commission.

Employer groups’ push for greater flexibility in contracts and rostering for part-time aged care workers has been rejected by the Fair Work Commission in rulings made this week as part of the four-yearly review of modern awards.

A further ruling was made in favour of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to introduce a casual conversion clause into 85 awards, including the four covering the aged care sector, which supports casual employees to convert to a full or part-time role after 12 months if they wish.

Employer organisations Australian Business Industrial, the New South Wales Business Chamber and Jobs Australia were seeking greater flexibility in how hours of work for part-time employees are fixed in the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry (SCHCDSI) Award.

Their claim was primarily based on the view that the National Disability Insurance Scheme was radically changing the disability support sector resulting in employers losing control over when work was required to be performed.

West Australian provider St Ives Group was also seeking changes to part-time employment and rostering provisions under the Aged Care and SCHCDSI awards including allowing the employer to roster when the employee worked within pre-agreed periods of employee availability.

Helen Gibbons

United Voice assistant secretary Helen Gibbons said the aged care union’s main role in this review was to defend these claims to casualise part-time work in the aged care industry.

Aged care workers have won an important right to protect the hours set in contracts, Ms Gibbons told Australian Ageing Agenda.

If these claims had been successful, employers would have been able to vary hours of work as they wished, she said.

Ruling for casual employees

Ms Gibbons said United Voice also supported the ACTU’s successful claim for a casual conversion clause in the Aged Care and SCHCDSI awards.

That decision also covers the other sector awards, the Nurses and Health Professionals awards.

The ruling means casual employees can elect to convert to an equivalent full or part-time role after 12 months that is consistent with their usual and ongoing pattern of hours.

The 12-month qualifying period falls short of the six months requested by the union.

The casual conversion clause permits employers to refuse the request on reasonable grounds, including if a significant adjustment of hours was required or if the casual employee’s position was unlikely to exist or hours change in the following 12 months.

The commission said it would provide an opportunity for those interested to make further submissions about the terms of this proposed model provision.

The 2016 aged care workforce census and survey showed a reduction in casual employment in the aged care sector compared to 2012, dropping from 19 per cent to 10 per cent in residential care and from 27 per cent to 14 per cent in community care (read AAA coverage here and CCR‘s report here).

Sean Rooney

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said determinations on this decision by the Fair Work Commission had not been made yet.

“It is important that any future determinations by the FWC are consistent with the broader aged care reform agenda that the government is pursuing, where it is seeking to empower older Australians to control and choose the services they want and need,” Mr Rooney told AAA.

“Flexibility in industrial instruments is required to support this broader policy reform agenda.”

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Tags: fair work commission, Helen Gibbons, lasa, leading-age-serivces-australia, Sean Rooney, united-voice, workforce,

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