The “Closing Christmas” Bill set to lay off casual workers

Christmas cheer could be in short supply for employers and their workers this time next year, if the Federal Government’s radical “Closing Loopholes” Industrial Relations Bill passes into law.

In a CCIWA survey of 816 businesses, conducted in November after the Government announced changes to the Bill, almost half (48%) said the shake-up of casual employment would change their staffing intentions or prices for Christmas 2024.

18% expected to hire fewer staff next Christmas as a result, equating to 16,000 businesses that would slash casual roles.

15% said they would stop hiring casuals all together over Christmas, which would equate to around 13,900 businesses.

15% of businesses said they would increase prices as a result – around 13,900 WA businesses charging more for their goods and services next Christmas.

Amendments to the Bill saw the welcome removal of significant fines for businesses that misclassified a casual worker. However, many businesses that hire casuals remain deeply concerned about provisions that create a pathway to permanent employment after just six months.

CCIWA Chief Executive Chris Rodwell said the results show there is still significant concern about the bill, despite concessions made by the Federal Government.

“The past few months have seen an inadequate process of tinkering at the edges of this deeply flawed Bill, and these results show that’s done little to calm the anxieties of WA businesses that hire casuals,” Mr Rodwell said.

“We were pleased to see the amendments to the Bill which included removing the huge financial penalties proposed for employers who accidentally misclassify a casual worker.

“But it’s clear that this Bill, which completely changes the relationship between the casual worker and their employer, poses huge risks for businesses and many will simply change their hiring behaviour as a result.”

Mr Rodwell said the biggest losers from the changes to casual employment will be casual workers themselves, many of whom enjoyed the extra hours available over the holiday period.

“Christmas is a great time of year for casual workers, many of whom are university students or working parents, because they have the capacity to take on more hours,” he said.

“Employers will see casuals as a liability, knowing they could be forced to convert them to permanent after just six months if they have a regular pattern of work, regardless of any legitimate business reasons they may have to keep the worker as a casual.

“This would adversely impact the many seasonal businesses across WA that need a surge of casual staff over the warmer months.”

Mr Rodwell said many workers relied on the flexibility and higher wages offered by casual roles to combat the cost-of-living crisis.

“The 25% loading that comes with casual roles can really make or break some family budgets,” he said.

“If fewer of these roles could be available to those who want them, it would be bad for workers, employers and the wider economy.”

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