This page examines the pros and cons of casual work and provides a guide to some of the issues facing casual workers.
What is casual work?
Casual jobs are usually jobs that:
- Are short-term or temporary
- Involve irregular hours
- Aren't guaranteed to be ongoing
- Don't provide paid holiday leave or sick leave
Generally speaking, casual employees are employed on an hourly, daily or weekly basis without any commitment - from the employee or the employer - that the job is permanent or guaranteed.
Casual workers are also often employed on an "as needed" basis. Some casual workers may experience long periods of time between being offered shifts.
Casual employees don't usually work set hours, although some casual workers do work long, regular hours.
A penalty rate is a higher rate of pay that is usually paid for work on weekends or public holidays. Penalty rates are sometimes paid for work outside your normal working hours (e.g., overtime payments).
For example, if you work one shift on a Friday, and another shift on a Sunday, you would be paid more per hour to work the Sunday shift.
Not all casuals get paid overtime penalty rates. If you work in retail for a small business, you may not be entitled to penalty rates for working outside your normal hours.
To find out whether you're entitled to overtime and other penalties, check your:
- Federal award
- Certified agreement
- Employment contract
Your employer should be able to tell you if you're employed under an award or agreement.
You could also try talking to your union. To find out which union you should be talking to, you can contact the Australian Council of Trade Unions on 1300 486 466.
Casual loading is extra money paid to casual workers over and above the normal hourly rate that full-timers or part-timers get paid in the same job.
Casual loading is often seen as compensation for the uncertainty and lack of benefits you receive as a casual worker. Many awards and agreements include a casual loading.
Modern awards specify a minimum casual loading of 25 per cent, but this can vary depending on your circumstances.
Whether or not you should be paid a casual loading will depend on your employment arrangement.
To find out more about how much you should be getting paid, check out our Getting Paid page.
Minimum conditions for casual workers
The National Employment Standards (NES) set the minimum conditions that must apply to all employees in the national workplace system. If you're a casual, you're covered by the following standards:
- You're allowed to take two days unpaid carer’s leave and two days unpaid compassionate leave for each occasion that such leave is needed
- The maximum hours you can work in a week is 38 (plus any 'reasonable' additional hours)
- You're allowed to take community service leave for things like voluntary emergency service or jury duty
- You're allowed to have a day off on a public holiday, unless reasonably requested to work by the employer
- You must be provided with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement, which contains information about the NES and other employee rights
In addition, casual employees who have been employed for at least 12 months by the same employer on a regular and systematic basis, and who have a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment, are entitled to:
- Make requests for flexible working arrangements
- Take parental leave
For more information about the NES, check out the Fair Work Ombudsman website. If you think your employer isn't following one or more of these standards, you can also call the Ombudsman on 13 13 94.
Flexibility vs. security in casual work
Casual work offers more flexible work hours than other forms of employment, but the permanency of your job is less certain.
Not all casual employees can choose their own hours. Your employer will probably offer you hours to suit their business opening hours and the demands of their busiest times.
You can turn down a shift, but if you do it too often it might mean your employer offers you less shifts in the future.
If you're worried about your employer not letting you change shifts, or you're worried about your employer taking shifts away from you, you can call JobWatch on 9662 1933 (metro) or 1800 331 617 (non-metro) to ask for advice.
You could also try talking to your union. To find out which union you should be talking to, check out the information on the Australian Unions website or call 1300 486 466 to talk to someone directly.
Superannuation for casuals
If you're a casual employee, your employer should be contributing superannuation into an approved superannuation fund on your behalf if you're:
- Over 18 years of age AND
- Earning more than $450 in a calendar month
Details of any contributions should be shown on your payslip. If the amount of hours you work varies a lot, it's possible that your employer will have to make contributions on your behalf for some weeks and not others.
Super for u18s
If you're a casual employee and aged under 18, your employer has to make superannuation contributions on your behalf if you're:
- Working more than 30 hours a week AND
- Earning over $450 in a calendar month
Note that if you're under 18 and working less than 30 hours a week, your employer doesn't have to make superannuation contributions for you.
Find out more about how superannuation works on our Superannuation page.
Safety at work
All employees, including casuals, have the right to work in a safe workplace. To find out more about being safe while at work, check out our Safety at work page.
Victorian community legal centre specialising in issues for workers, offering free and confidential advice. Call them on 9662 1933 (metro) or 1800 331 617 (non-metro).
Fair Work Ombudsman
Providing advice and helping people understand their workplace rights and responsibilities. Call them on 13 13 94.
Australian Council of Trade Unions
The ACTU represents unions in Australia, protecting the rights of Australian workers. Contact them on 1300 486 466 to find out more about joining a union, or to find out which union represents your industry.