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High Court upholds freedom to contract casually

The High Court has upheld the casual nature of the employment of a labour hire worker by looking to the terms of the contracts of employment.

Robert Rossato was employed by WorkPac, a labour-hire company pursuant to a series of six contracts, or “assignments” between 28 July 2014 and 9 April 2018, when he retired. During that time, WorkPac provided his services to Glencore at one or other of the Collinsville and Newlands mines. Each contract was entitled “Notice of Offer of Casual Employment – Flat Rate” except for the third contract, which was entitled “Notice of Offer of Casual Employment”. At all relevant times, WorkPac treated Mr Rossato as a casual employee.

On 2 October 2018, in reliance on the decision in WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene [2018] FCAFC 131, Mr Rossato wrote to WorkPac claiming that he had not worked for it as a casual employee, and claiming that he was entitled to be paid for untaken annual leave, public holidays, and periods of personal leave and compassionate leave taken by him during his employment. These entitlements were said to be due under the Act and the WorkPac Pty Ltd Mining (Coal) Industry Enterprise Agreement 2012 (“the Enterprise Agreement”), which governed Mr Rossato’s employment.

WorkPac denied Mr Rossato’s claims, and promptly filed an originating application in the Federal Court of Australia seeking declarations that throughout his employment Mr Rossato had been a casual employee for the purposes of the Fair Work Act and the Enterprise Agreement.

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