A Brief Introduction of Flexible Employment in Australia
1.Diversity in employment forms
On the official website of the Fair work ombudsman, employees are classified as full-time, part-time, casual, and they can be further divided into fixed-term and non-fixed contract employees, shift workers, daily hire and weekly hire employees, employees on probation, and outworkers. According to the survey, conducted by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency of Australian Government, full-time employees only consist 55% of the total labor force, part-time employees are 21.3% and causal employees are 23.7%.
2.Different-level of protection
Besides the Fair Work Act of 2009, the National Employment Standards (NES), 122 industry awards and the registered agreements specifically distinguish the treatment and entitlements of full-time employees, part-time employees and causal employees:
Casual employees have higher hourly rate than part-time and full-time employees of the same occupation because causal employees don’t enjoy paid-leave. If a casual employee has worked for a long time and the shift is fixed, he can become a long-term casual employee. Additionally, after 12 months’ regular employment, if it is likely that the regular employment will continue, the casual employee can apply for the flexible arrangement and take parental leave. A causal employee can change to full-time or part-time employment and vice versa. Although a long-term causal employee has regularly worked for the same employer for a long time, he will still enjoy the causal employees’ entitlements, unless he has officially changed to a part-time or a full-time employee.
With the application of the causal employee and the agreement of the employer, a casual employee can change to a part-time or a full-time employee. Some enterprise agreements, other registered agreements and awards might have more detailed requirements for changing. Taking the hospitality award for example, a causal employee who has worked at the rate of an average of 38 or more hours a week in the period of 12 months’ causal employment, may elect to have their employment converted to full-time employment. If he has worked at the rate of an average of less than 38 hours a week in the period of 12 months’ causal employment, he may elect to have their employment converted to part-time employment. It is worth mentioning that the employer may refuse the causal employee’s application only on reasonable grounds, such as the size and needs of the enterprise, the nature of the employee’s work, the employee’s qualifications and skills, the employee’s personal circumstances and family responsibilities and so on.
The employer is not allowed to require the causal employee to so convert or unilaterally increase the hours of a regular casual employee seeking conversion to full-time or part-time employment. The full-time employees after a negotiation with the employer can change to part-time employees or casual employees with a notice in advance. Employers need to pay out the leaves and any other entitlements owed. If the employer wants to change an employee’s full-time employment to part-time or causal employment without agreement form the employee, the employer has to consider the requirements in the employment contract, registered agreements and the awards.
4.The industrial negotiation and protection
The industry awards and registered agreements are the best outcome of the consultation on the basis of equality between employers and employees, which have become the most important part of the Australian labor system and have protected the employees’ entitlements from different fields. When the enterprise has a registered agreement in place and it covers the work that the employee does, then the minimum pay and conditions in the agreement will apply. If there is no registered agreement that applies and an award covers the business and the job occupation of employees, then the pay and conditions in the award will apply.
There are 122 industry awards that cover most people working in Australia. The awards will specify and define the employees’ occupations and set different entitlements on the basis of the employees’ levels and positions. Taking example of the clerks in the private sector, clerks are divided into five levels, plus call center principal customer contact specialist and call center technical associate. Employees of different levels get different minimum pay.
Whether the awards are applied or not is based on the working content of the employee. In principle, an enterprise can be covered by several awards. The awards don’t apply to high income employees, who are guaranteed to earn an annual amount more than the standard high income threshold (From 1 July 2017, the high income threshold is $142,000. Employees earning include the employee’s wages, the agreed value of non-monetary benefits, don’t include commissions, bonuses, overtime, reimbursements and statutory superannuation contributions.)
The flexibility in workplace is inseparable from the Australian developed economy, numerous new industries, perfect social insurance. The essences of the flexibility are the security and fairness of the labor market, which require both the employers and the employees to have a developed mechanism of the consultation on the basis of equality.
In order to decrease cost and increase efficiency, flexible employment is a necessary development trend of Chinese labor market. We should learn not only the flexible employment experience, but also the powerful awards and registered agreements, which will establish a fair employment environment and realize the harmonization of employment relationships.
 Source of data：Workplace Gender Equality Agency（WGEA）http://data.wgea.gov.au/industries/1#work_flex_content