Casual workers

More than two million Australians are employed casually. Women account for just over half of all casuals and 40% of casuals are aged 15-24 years, compared with 14% of other employees.

There is no standard definition of casual work but they are usually jobs that are temporary, have irregular hours and are not guaranteed to be ongoing.

Casual workers are entitled to some, but not all, of the benefits given to permanent workers.

Casual employees don’t get paid holiday leave or sick leave but they are entitled to a higher rate of pay (casual loading), parental leave and, under the new Fair Work laws, casuals are protected from being sacked unfairly.

As a casual worker you are entitled to a loading on your hourly rate of pay, which means that your hourly pay rate should be more than the permanent workers’ doing the same work as you.

Check your award or agreement to find out what you should be being paid. For more information contact your union or the Union Helpline provides free advice on 1300 486 466.

Casual Work
Casual workers are employed on a ‘shift-to-basis’. You generally have no certainty of ongoing work as a casual worker.

But the casual work relationship should go both ways. If shifts are only casually available, you are not obliged to be always available to your employers. If you are unable to work a shift as a casual worker you should not be forced to work it.

As a casual worker you are not entitled to most forms of paid leave or notice of termination pay. However you are entitled to a safe workplace, freedom from discrimination and unpaid parental leave and, in some circumstances, long service leave, protection from unfair dismissal and the ability to request to be converted to permanent work.

Casual Pay Rates
Employers should tell employees at the beginning of their employment if they are employed as casual or permanent workers. You should ask your employer how you are employed if you don’t know.

Casual loading is the additional hourly pay that casual workers are paid. The hourly pay rate for casual workers is the equivalent permanent hourly rate plus 15-25% of this hourly rate.

The rate of pay and the rate of loading are determined by the award or agreement that covers the job.

Casual workers should have superannuation contributions paid by their employers if they earn more than $450 per month and are over 18 years old, or, are under 18 years old and work more than 30 hours per week.

For more information on awards and agreements that set out your conditions see the Minimum Wages Fact Sheet.

Casual Leave Entitlements
The loading that casuals are paid is compensation for the lack of paid leave provisions that casuals are entitled to, as well as the insecurity of their employment.

Casual employees do not have access to paid sick leave, annual or holiday leave, or to paid personal or carer’s leave. Hence time away from work will usually result in a loss of pay.

Casual workers can request 12 months of unpaid parental leave if they have been working regular shifts in the same job for 12 months or more, and would have a reasonable expectation of ongoing work.

Casual workers can also access long service leave. The length of service after which this can be taken, and the amount of long service leave the worker should get, will be set out in the award or agreement that covers the work, as well as the relevant State or Territory legislation.

See the Types of Leave Fact sheet and information on Termination Pay for further information on this.

Penalties and Allowances for Casuals
While there is no guarantee of the following, awards or agreements will often state that casual workers:

  • Are entitled to be paid at a higher rate of pay for public holidays worked but are not entitled to be paid for public holidays that they do not work;
  • Are entitled to extra pay (penalty rates) for evening, night and weekend work;
  • Are entitled to the same rest breaks as permanent workers, including at least a 30 minute unpaid break for every five hours of work; and
  • Are entitled to a minimum length of shifts.

Check your award or agreement for the conditions that apply to you.

Conversion from Casual to Permanent Work
If you have been working regular shifts in the same job for a certain period of time casually, you might be eligible to request to be converted to permanent work.

Permanent conversion clauses are contained in awards and agreements. To find out what conversion entitlements apply to your job, you should refer to the instrument that covers you.

Conversion clauses will often state that if a casual worker has been engaged on a regular and systematic basis for a specified length of time – for instance 6 or 12 months – then the worker has the ability to request to be transferred to permanent work.

Employers can refuse this request only by providing reasonable grounds for the rejection.

In some circumstances where an official conversion has not taken place but a casual worker has been employed in ongoing, regular and systematic work over a period of time, then the worker might be considered to be permanent workers for leave and termination purposes. For information on this please contact your union or phone the Union Helpline for free advice on 1300 486 466.

Casual Work and Unfair Dismissal
Under the new Fair Work laws casual workers have the same access to unfair dismissal provisions as permanent workers.

Casual workers have the right to lodge an unfair dismissal claim provided that they have worked 6 months in the same job. If the company they work for has fewer than 15 full-time, part-time or regular casual employees (and is hence considered a small business) they will need to have worked for 12 months before they access unfair dismissal protections.

Casual workers do not have access to notice of termination, or pay in lieu of notice of termination.

Casual workers have the same right to work free from discrimination as all other workers.

It is unlawful to be treated poorly at work, or to be fired, on the grounds of discrimination.

For further information about dismissal or discrimination see the fact sheet Unfair Dismissal, Discrimination and Redundancy.

Casual Work, Work Safety and Union Membership
Casual workers have the same right to a safe workplace as all workers, and the same right to apply for compensation in the event of an injury at work.

Please see the fact sheet Unsafe Work and Bullying for more information on these issues.

Casual workers also have the same rights as all workers to join and to be represented by a union.