Balancing Act: Safeguarding the Work-Life Harmony of Casual Employees in Australia



The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 (The Act) aligns with the overarching principles of the Fair Work framework in Australia, aiming to create an environment where every worker is treated with dignity, respect, and fairness. By addressing proper classification of employees, criminal wage theft and the right to disconnect, amongst other things, this comprehensive legislative initiative aims to address issues within the employment sector, fostering a more equitable and supportive environment for workers across the nation.

The balances of changes will be introduced over the next ten months so not all amendments are currently active.  Although The Act is currently waiting on royal assent, for the purpose of the article we will still refer to it as The Act.

Key Features of The Act Amendments

  • Classification of Employees;
  • Wage Theft & Criminal Implications;
  • Casual Conversion: Roles & Responsibilities; and
  • The Right to Disconnect & Unfair Dismissal.

Classification of Employees

Identifying and properly classifying employees, including casual employees, is crucial for both employers and employees to ensure legal compliance and prevent potential criminal liability. Incorrectly classifying employees, intentionally or unintentionally, may result in wage theft accusations. This could lead to legal action, financial penalties, reputable damage, and criminal charges against the employer. This is especially the case if it is found that the misclassification was intentional.

Wage Theft & Criminal Implications

  1. Increased Financial Penalties:

The Act will introduce escalated financial penalties for businesses caught underpaying their workers. These penalties are designed to reflect the severity of the offence, acting as a powerful deterrent against unscrupulous practices.

  1. Individual Accountability:

Acknowledging the role of individuals in positions of authority, the Act holds key personnel, such as directors and executives, personally accountable for wage theft offenses committed by their organisations. This individual accountability adds an extra layer of responsibility and discourages unethical practices.

  1. Enhanced Reporting and Pay Transparency Requirements:

The Act mandates more detailed and frequent reporting on wage payments, fostering transparency and enabling early detection of wage theft. Businesses are now required to provide comprehensive pay information to their employees, ensuring that any discrepancies are identified promptly.

  1. Criminal Law and Penalties:

Recognising the urgency of addressing wage theft, there has been a growing push to reform Australia’s industrial relations laws and hold employers accountable for their actions.  If employers are reported and found guilty, they may face severe consequences such as receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years or a substantial fine, potentially reaching as high as $1.5 million, or both, as determined by the Court. For body corporate employers, the fines imposed by the Court could be even more substantial, potentially reaching as high as $7.8 million, surpassing the penalties levied on individuals.

Casual Conversion: Roles & Responsibilities

  1. Casual Conversion:

Casual conversion refers to the process by which casual employees can request to convert their employment status to permanent after meeting certain criteria. The Act now provides an alternative pathway to casual conversion, meaning the onus will be on the casual employee to make a request with their employer to change their employment status once certain thresholds are met.  This includes the employee being employed for at least 6 months (or 12 months for small business employers).

  1. Timelines to provide the Casual Employment Information Statement:

For small businesses, the Casual Employment Information Statement must be given to new casual employees and then again on their first 12-month anniversary, then a further 12 months, then not again.

For non-small businesses, the Casual Employment Information Statement must be given to new casual employees and then again after 6 months (as a once off).  Then on every 12-month anniversary of their employment indefinitely (i.e 0 months, 6 months, 12 months, 24 months, 36 months, 48 months, etc).

The Right to Disconnect & Unfair Dismissal

In the era of constant connectivity, the right to disconnect has emerged as a crucial component of promoting a healthy work-life balance. The Act recognises the importance of delineating work hours from personal time and introduces measures to safeguard this right for employees.

  1. Defining Clear Boundaries:

The Act emphasises the need for clear boundaries between work and non-work hours. Employers are encouraged to establish policies that respect employees’ personal time, especially outside of designated working hours.

  1. Voluntary Communication:

While recognising the necessity of flexibility in some roles, The Act underscores that any communication outside of regular working hours should be voluntary. Employees should not feel pressured to respond immediately, promoting a more sustainable and balanced approach to work.

  1. Cultural Shift in Workplaces:

Beyond legal requirements, the right to disconnect encourages a cultural shift in workplaces. It urges employers to foster environments where employees feel supported in maintaining a healthy work-life balance, ultimately contributing to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

  1. Unfair Dismissal:

The Act expands the criteria for determining unfair dismissal, ensuring that employees are safeguarded from arbitrary termination. This broader scope provides additional protection against dismissals that may lack substantive justification.

The Fair Work Commission plays a pivotal role in adjudicating unfair dismissal claims. The Act empowers the Commission to intervene in cases where dismissals are deemed unfair, ensuring a robust system of checks and balances.

The Act explicitly safeguards employees against unfair dismissal when exercising workplace rights. This provision fortifies job security for those who actively engage in protected activities within the workplace.


The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 reflects a commitment to creating a more balanced and equitable employment landscape in Australia. The Casual Conversion Right and the right to disconnect are pivotal components of this transformative legislation, aiming to provide job security for casual employees and foster a culture of well-being and work-life balance. As organisations adapt to these changes, embracing a proactive and collaborative approach will be key to ensuring the success of these provisions in enhancing the overall quality of work for both employers and employees.

Australia’s complex workplace laws are evolving rapidly. Salerno Law understand the industrial law challenges faced by employers in complying with ever-changing requirements. Our focus is to fully understand our clients’ businesses and wider industry norms to provide tailored support and guidance for future industrial relations regulatory changes.

Author Kate Flett