Rights for Casual Workers


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
> Minimum Conditions for Casual Workers
> Penalty Rates
> Superannuation
> Safety at work
> Links to helpful organisations

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.

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 (new window) 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, you can contact the Australian Council of Trade Unions (new window) on 1300 486 466.

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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.

To find out more about how much you should be getting paid, check out our Getting Paid the Right Amount 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. 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 (new window), 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). If you think your employer isn't following one or more of these standards, you can also call the Ombudsman on 13 13 94.

Penalty Rates 

A penalty rate is a rate of pay that is higher than normal rates. Penalty rates are usually paid for work on weekends or public holidays. They are sometimes also 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.

If you're still unsure about what penalty rates you should be getting, you can call  JobWatch on 9662 1933 (metro) or 1800 331 617 (new window) or the Fair Work Ombudsman (new window) on 13 13 94

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 (new window) on 1300 486 466.

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

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