Retail giant Cotton On is reviewing its decision to exclude 200 staff from the JobKeeper program.
The decision comes as a result of public pressure from casual workers.
A number have spoken to the media arguing the company has treated them unfairly.
Cotton On reassessing employee eligibility
Cotton On says 5,500 of its workers are currently receiving the $1,500 JobKeeper wage subsidy.
However, 2,500 casuals ended up without the payment after the retailer decided they did not meet eligibility criteria.
To be eligible for JobKeeper, casual workers must have worked for at least 12-months with the same employer.
The company says it is now reviewing the decision affecting up to 200 casuals.
‘Regular and systemic’ employment
Cotton On worker Hannah Fitchet is among those denied access to the scheme.
She told the ABC:
“For the past two years, I have been a loyal employee, it’s been my primary employer, and I just don’t feel like I’m being supported.”
Cotton On determined Fitchet to be ineligible because her work pattern over the past 12-months did not fit with the “regular and systematic” requirement under the JobKeeper rules.
After joining the company in March 2018, Fitchet took a six-month break last year to travel overseas.
Cotton On’s Human Resources Department sent an email to Fitchet last month:
“Any period of more than 12 weeks away from work would generally break continuous service.
“So, unfortunately, this is why we have found that you were not employed on a regular and systematic basis for the purposes of JobKeeper.”
Worker calls ATO hotline
Fitchet says she called the ATO hotline for advice on how to challenge the determination.
“I explained my situation and the guy on the other end of the phone basically said, ‘yeah, you should be eligible’,” she said.
However, Cotton On maintains its independent legal advice is that she is ineligible.
Confusion with casuals
When asked how business should interpret “regular and systematic”, Attorney-General Christian Porter said:
“This is well established in industrial law and the Fair Work Act.”
However, industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims says that is incorrect.
He maintains there has long been confusion about the definition of a casual worker.
“The Fair Work Act does not define a casual worker, so the definition of ‘regular and systemic’ is open to interpretation,” he said.
“However, I think someone who has worked for a company for a number of years, but took six months off for travel, should still be considered ‘regular and systemic’.”
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