Rights for Casual Workers

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Photo of woman working in call centreThis page examines the pros and cons of casual work and provides a guide to some of the issues facing casual workers, including:

> Definition of 'casual work'
> Flexibility vs. uncertainty
> Casual Loading
> National Employment Standards
> Penalties
> Superannuation
> Safety at work
> Links

Definition of 'Casual Work'

There is no standard definition of casual work. One common definition describes casual jobs as jobs that:

  • Are short-term or temporary
  • Involve irregular hours
  • Aren't guaranteed to be ongoing

Another definition describes casual employees as employees who don't get 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 employee will have the job on a permanent or guaranteed basis.

Casual employees don't usually work set hours, although some casual workers do work long, regular hours.

Casual workers are also often employed on an "as needed" basis. Some casual workers may experience long periods of time between being offered shifts.

For more general info about the nature of casual work, check out our Part-Time, Casual and Short-Term Work page.

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Flexibility vs. Uncertainty

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.

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Casual Loading

Casual loading is extra money paid to casual workers over and above the normal hourly rate. It is often viewed 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.

 

National Employment Standards

The National Employment Standards (NES) set the minimum conditions that must apply to all employees in the national workplace system. Casual employees are covered by the following standards:

  • They are 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 they can work in a week is 38 (plus any 'reasonable' additional hours)
  • They are allowed to take community service leave for things like voluntary emergency service or jury duty
  • They are allowed to have a day off on a public holiday, unless reasonably requested to work by the employer
  • They 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 an employer on a regular and systematic basis, and who have an 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 (new window).

Penalty Rates 

A penalty rate is a rate of pay that is higher than normal rates and which is paid for work performed either outside normal working hours (e.g, overtime rates) or in other special conditions, including work on weekends or public holidays.

Some casual workers are paid an overtime penalty if they work outside normal hours (e.g. if you work on Friday nights for a large retail outlet and are employed under the award).

Not all casuals get paid overtime penalties. If you work in retail for a small business, you may not be entitled to penalty rates for working outside 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. If you're still unsure, contact JobWatch (new window) or the Fair Work Ombudsman (new window).

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Superannuation for Casuals

If you're a casual worker aged between 18 and 70 years of age and earning more than $450 in a calendar month, your employer should be contributing superannuation into an approved superannuation fund on your behalf.

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

Employers have to make contributions for employees who are under 18 if they are working more than 30 hours per week. If you are under 18 and working less than 30 hours a week your employer does not have to make superannuation contributions for you.

Find out more on our Superannuation page.

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Safety at Work

All employees, including casuals, have the right to work in a safe workplace. To find out more about safety at work, check out our WorkSafe Victoria page.

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Links

Jobwatch
Victorian community legal centre specialising in issues for workers, and offering free and confident.

Fair Work Ombudsman
Gives advice about Australia's national workplace relations system and helps people understand their workplace rights and responsibilities.

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