Being a casual employee means that you have slightly different work agreements to fixed part-time, full-time and permanent employees.

In some cases, you may be surprised at just how many rights you have. However, it’s important to know your casual entitlements in case you should ever enter into any kind of dispute with your employer, or if you’re unsure about what you can ask for. 

There’s often an argument of part-time vs casual and what is a better option to take. Where a part-time employee will have a set amount of hours per week and an ongoing commitment of work moving forward, casual workers don’t have that same firm commitment of work and job security. However, casual employees do have some basic differences and benefits given to balance out the fewer hours and lack of a firm advance commitment. This often results in a higher rate of pay.

Your casual work contract may include additional agreements that go above and beyond what is required by law, so always go over your contract before signing it and ask a trusted friend, adviser or recruitment specialist if you need help with negotiations.

Here’s what you need to know about what it means to be a casual employee and what you can expect from your casual employee rights.

In addition, we’ve included a section covering casual employment opportunities in light of COVID-19.

What Is a Casual Employee?

Firstly, make sure you qualify as a casual employee. In Australia, casual employees are those who don’t have a commitment in advance about how long they will be employed for, or the days or hours they will work. This means that casual employees don’t necessarily have the security of ongoing work.

Additionally, a casual worker:

  • doesn’t have guaranteed hours per week
  • Will usually work irregular hours
  • doesn't get paid sick or annual leave
  • can leave their job without notice, unless notice is required by an agreement, award or employment contract

The main difference between casual employees and part-time or-full time employees is that full-time and part-time employees have ongoing work and secure employment – whether permanently or on a fixed-term contract – and usually work regular hours (Part-time is often 20-25 hours per week and full-time is 38 hours per week). They’re also entitled to paid sick leave and annual leave.

To compensate for the lack of paid leave, casual employees receive casual loading, meaning they are paid a higher hourly rate than comparable full-time and part-time employees. Casual jobs can also offer greater flexibility, which may be better suited to some people’s schedules.

Casual Employment Rights in Australia

Casual worker rights are included in Australia’s Fair Work Act. These rights include:

A higher hourly pay rate than equivalent full-time or part-time employees, called a 'casual loading'. This is usually 15-25% higher than the equivalent permanent hourly rate and is set out in the job’s award or agreement.

  • Two days of unpaid carer's leave
  • Two days of unpaid compassionate leave per occasion (such as bereavement)
  • Five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave (in a 12-month period)
  • Unpaid community service leave (such as jury duty)
  • Superannuation payments on your behalf (if you are over 18 and earning more than $450 per month)

Note that there are no official minimum hours for casual employees per shift but you should check your agreement on this before starting work as many employers stick to a minimum of two or three hours per shift for casual staff.

Long-Term Casual Employment Rights

If you have been working as a casual employee for 12 months or more, you are considered to be a ‘long-term casual employee’. In some cases, a casual employee will use this as a opportunity to discuss ongoing employment and transitioning out of work on a casual basis to a role of a permanent employee. 12 months of consistent work with a company is certainly a great sign for an employer to transition a casual worker into a full-time employee.

Under the Fair Work Act, long-term casual employees who are likely to continue working in the same job can:

  • Request flexible working arrangements
  • Take unpaid parental leave for up to 12 months

Where Can I Learn More About Casual Employment Rights?

If you’d like to know more about casual employee termination and other casual employee rights, there are a number of resources you can turn to. If your company has a human resources department, they are often a good first port of call for you to discuss your rights and your contract.

Local and federal government, as well as private groups, also offer a variety of sources you can turn to for more detailed information, and to seek out advice.

Below are some useful resources on casual workers’ rights:

COVID-19 & Casual Employment

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally shifted the employment landscape and left many casual workers out of a job and unsure of their future.

However, if you’re a casual employee who has been impacted by COVID-19, the good news is there are incentives and job opportunities popping up every day to help you get back on track:

JobKeeper payments

On 30 March, the Federal government announced it would be introducing a JobKeeper payment scheme to encourage businesses to retain or rehire employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under this scheme, you may be eligible to receive $1,500 per fortnight from your employer for up to six months, even if you’ve already lost your job or your employer has had to shut down temporarily. This payment will come through your workplace, as it’s paid to your employer by the government.

JobKeeper payments are due to be rolled out in the first week of May and backpaid to eligible employees from March, so be sure ask your employer if you’re eligible.

Thousands of new casual jobs

Although many jobs have been lost across Australia, there are also thousands of casual job opportunities being created as employment needs shift to essential services.

Businesses providing essential services such as grocery stores and medical suppliers are ramping up their hiring efforts to meet increased demand.

Telecom giants Telstra and Optus are bringing their call centres back to Australia due to lockdowns in India and the Philippines, which will create an estimated 1,500 jobs.

Federal and state governments are also looking to create thousands of jobs to help process extra applications and payments, and offer additional support during this unprecedented time.

Let’s be honest, casual employment isn’t for everyone and candidates will often toss up the idea of casual vs part time when trying to find employment and trying to find a greater work life balance. It’s vital to understand your casual employment rights and most important the things your boss can’t do legally in Australia when it comes to casual workers. We hope this has helped you get a better understanding of casual employment rights and casual pay rates.

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