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13 Apr 2018

Technology is fuelling a global acceleration, with our employment landscape changing alongside it at an alarming rate.  One striking feature of the new working environment is what we commonly refer to as ‘gig economy’.

In short, gig economy describes the situation whereby temporary positions are filled by businesses with independent workers for short periods of time. Recent studies have predicted that by the year 2020, 40% of workers in the United States will be engaged in the gig economy, on these short term contracts. Australia is certainly set to follow these movements, as is the norm with trails blazed by our older cousins from across the pacific.

The gig economy is totally alien to traditional methods of work, whereby fulltime contracts and permanency were the standard.  No longer are people developing their career with a single business for a long period of time, opting instead to hop from place to place.

Australian law is often criticised for not keeping pace with societal changes – such as changes in the way we work – and as a result of these rapid changes, many question the legal protections in place for those who are most vulnerable.

With short term workers – also known as casual workers – this is not the case.

In a very recent decision, by the Fair Work Commission in Gwatkin v Sai Group of Business t/as Premier Hotel Punjarra (2018) the Fair Work Commission examined  a casual employment relationship and found that even though they were casual employees, they were still protected from unfair dismissal.

A common myth amongst employers is that they are able to terminate casual employees on the provision of an hour’s notice, without reason. The decision in Gwatkin v Sai Group of Business t/as Premier Hotel Punjarra (2018) the demonstrates that if the casual worker has a reasonable expectation of continuing employment by the employer on a regular and systematic basis, they will be protected by the Unfair Dismissal Provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009.

The decision stands as a timely reminder to all employers that notwithstanding a dramatic increase in the flexibility of your workforce, one cannot simply terminate a casual employee without first paying very close attention to the particular circumstances of that employee. 

GREGORY ROGERS | As published in The Albany Advertiser 

This is general information only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you are concerned for yourself or a member of the community, please contact HHG Legal Group on we.help.people@hhg.com.au to book a 15 minute appointment at our free legal assistance clinics.

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