A Federal Court ruling that found casual workers who carry out regular permanent work could be owed entitlements like sick leave and holidays has been welcomed by unions in Tasmania as a way of ending perceived inequity from the use of labour hire companies.
But Tasmania's peak business body has joined other industry groups in urging the federal government to legislate to ensure other casual employees in similar positions could not make demands for accrued entitlements.
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The case centred on a Queensland coal miner who was employed by labour hire firm WorkPac, which provided casual workers to Glencore.
WorkPac took him to court after he claimed he was owed annual leave, carer's leave, compassionate leave and public holiday entitlements due to him working three-and-a-half years of continuous employment over the course of six contracts.
WorkPac argued that if he were granted the conditions, the worker should be forced to forfeit the 25 per cent accrued casual loading - an argument that was rejected by the court.
On Wednesday, the court ruled that the employee - who left the business after being denied compassionate leave to care for his sick partner - was permanent part-time because WorkPac had come to an agreement that his employment was regular, stable and predictable.
The use of labour hire companies is common among a range of industries in Tasmania, and the ruling prompted responses from a range of bodies. The state also has among the highest rates of casualised workers.
Unions Tasmania secretary Jessica Munday said these types of working conditions were "fake casual arrangements" that allowed large companies to transfer the risk from themselves to labour hire companies.
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She said instances like this were becoming more common as Australia's workforce was increasingly casualised.
"We're edging towards half of the workforce being on casual arrangements. There are all of these insecure worker arrangements that have sprung up," Ms Munday said.
"Employers have benefited from a system that allows them to pretend that workers weren't permanent for way too long, and they've reaped the benefits.
"What we will now see are workers who have been systemically engaged like this considering their options."
Unions Tasmania called on the federal government to define "casual employment" in the Fair Work Act and to legislate "same job, same pay" rules to stop labour hire workers from being employed on worse conditions than their directly-employed colleagues.
Industry groups, however, fear the ruling will put further strain on businesses should long-term casual employees make similar demands for entitlements, and have urged the federal government to intervene.
Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Michael Bailey said the ruling had come "at the worst possible time".
"The decision has intensified the uncertainty regarding the engagement of casuals and calls into question the employment of hundreds of thousands of Australians, particularly young people, students, parents and carers," he said.
"This is a threat to the viability of hundreds of businesses who need casual labour and its timing could not be more serious for our state.
"It's not fair to be paid twice for the same work and other employees have every right to be angered by a system that allows some people to double dip."
Attorney-General Christian Porter has flagged that the government could intervene in an appeal.