Over the weekend, the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) released “Anything But Casual”, a report on their investigation into the ABC’s underpayment of 2500 casual staff to the tune of more than $20 million. Given the national broadcaster is about to be hit with more than $80 million in budget cuts, the revelation could hardly have come at a worse time.
Damningly, the report found that the underpayment “signifies a systemic and cultural failure by the ABC to meet its legal obligations as an employer, and its legal obligations as a publicly funded statutory authority”.
And there may be even more trouble on the horizon. Firstly there’s the issue of potential misclassification, with the report finding that “the nature of the employment relationship and the pattern of hours worked by some ABC casual employees are inconsistent with the definition of casual employment”.
Essentially, the rule in employment law is that it doesn’t matter if your employer calls you a casual: if your work has enough of the characteristics of part-time or full-time work — particularly consistent, ongoing, predictable hours — for long enough, you are entitled to the leave a permanent part-timer would get, even if you’ve been paid the casual loading. If it looks like a duck, and so on.
A collective 81% of the casual workers surveyed had been at the ABC for more than five years. 38% of respondents had been engaged between 10 and 20 years and 10% more than 20.
But even in the unlikely event that not one of those casuals, engaged for years on end, has qualified for annual leave or sick leave, there’s still another entitlement bill that might have Aunty worried.
While the exact rules vary from state to state, long service leave is one entitlement that casuals are not excluded from. 48% of the ABC employees surveyed had been working for 10 or more years — but only 6% had received long service leave. More bills on the way?