James asks: My boss has asked me to obtain an ABN. Since then I have done so, but I don’t understand why I need to have an ABN if I am working for his business.
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 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 leave pay or termination notice. However you are entitled to a safe workplace, freedom from discrimination, long service leave and parental leave, and in some circumstances, the ability to request to be converted to permanent work.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Australian workers and their unions have fought for and won a range of important leave and holiday entitlements that are among the best in the world.
In recent years unions have successfully defended public holiday pay and four weeks paid annual leave from being cut back under the former Howard Government’s unfair WorkChoices laws.
At the same time, unions have helped win more leave entitlements and pay for parents of young children.
The following information sets out the national minimum standard of leave and holiday conditions that apply to all workers from 1 January 2010.
To find out the specific conditions and leave entitlements applicable to you in your job contact your union or call the Australian Unions workers’ helpline on 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
Full-time and part-time workers are entitled to a minimum of 4 weeks of paid annual leave for every 12 months of continuous service. Shift workers are entitled to 5 weeks of paid annual leave.
Annual leave accrues throughout the year, so part time worker who works 2.5 days per week will have 10 full days of paid annual leave, that can be taken over a 4 week period, at the end of a 12 month period.
Many agreements and awards also provide for leave loading - this is typically 17.5% of your base rate of pay and is paid on top of your normal weekly earnings during your annual leave.
Annual leave that has accrued and has not been accessed is to be paid out at the end of your employment. This payment does not always include leave loading.
If during the period that an employee is taking annual leave a public holiday occurs, then the employee is to be paid for this public holiday and is not to be paid annual leave for this day.
The amount of annual leave an employee has accrued should be visible on their payslip.
Casual workers are not entitled to annual leave.
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Personal Leave (Sick Leave), Carer’s Leave and Compassionate Leave
Full-time, permanent workers are entitled to 10 days of paid personal or carer’s leave per year.
Personal leave is for when you are unfit for work due to illness or injury.
Carer’s leave should be taken when you need time off to provide care or support to a member of your immediate family, or a member of your household, who requires care or support because of a personal illness, or personal injury, or an unexpected emergency.
Paid personal and carer’s leave accrues throughout the year at the rate of your ordinary hours of work. Part-time workers accrue this leave in accordance with the percentage of full-time hours that they work.
The leave is to be paid at the rate of ordinary pay, and at the same time as your ordinary pay would usually occur.
Personal or carer’s leave should not be paid to you on a public holiday where you are entitled to public holiday pay.
Workers are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave on each occasion that they are required to care for an unwell family member or household member. Unpaid leave can not be taken where the employee could otherwise take paid leave.
Workers are also entitled to 2 days of paid compassionate leave for each occasion that a member of the employee’s immediate family or household contracts a life threatening illness, sustains a life threatening injury or dies.
You are required to give notice of your requirement to take leave as soon as is reasonably practicable, and to provide evidence of the relevant illness or circumstance that requires you taking the leave.
Your employer is not obliged to allow for leave if you can’t supply evidence.
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You are entitled to access up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave once you have completed 12 months of continuous service with an employer. This applies to all workers, including casual workers. However, casual workers will need to have worked regularly and systematically throughout the 12 months of their service and have a reasonable expectation of ongoing work in order to access parental leave. Parental leave must be taken in one continuous bloc.
Since 2011, women in seasonal, casual or contract work as well as the self-employed also have access to paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
Pregnant workers may begin their leave up to 6 weeks in advance of the expected date of delivery, but no later than date of the child’s birth. For partners who are not giving birth the parental leave must begin on the date of birth of the child.
You may request a further period of unpaid parental leave of up to 12 months to start immediately following the end of the 12 month leave period. This request must be made at least 4 weeks before the end of the original leave period. The employer must agree to this request unless there are reasonable business grounds not to.
You have the right to return to your original position at the end of the leave period, or if their original job is no longer available, then you must be reinstated in an appropriate and comparable role.
To be eligible for Paid Parental Leave it is necessary to:
a) Be the mother of a newborn child or the initial primary care giver of an adopted child under 16 years of age.
b) Have an individual income of $150,000 or less.
c) Be living in Australia and meet the residence requirements. And
d) Meet the Paid Parental Leave work test before the birth or adoption occurs. In other words, you must have worked continuously for at least 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of your child and worked for at least 330 hours in that 10 month period (around one day a week.) You can still be regarded as working continuously even if you work part time or casually, work for more than one employer or have recently changed jobs. If you don’t have more than a break of eight weeks between working days you will be regarded as working continuously.
Paid Parental Leave is for a maximum of 18 weeks (at the National Minimum Wage rate.) It is treated the same as any other taxable income. It’s important to remember though that it’s not a leave entitlement; rather it complements parents’ entitlements to leave such as unpaid Parental leave under the National Employment Standards.
To be denied a return to work after parental leave, or to be dismissed upon becoming pregnant, constitutes unlawful termination. For further information on this see the factsheet Unfair Dismissal, Discrimination and Redundancy.
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Long Service Leave
Long service leave recognises long periods of continuous service with the same employer (regardless of changes to job title or role) and is available to both casual and permanent workers.
In normal circumstances long service leave can not be cashed out.
While long service leave is a minimum standard in the new Fair Work laws, it is generally governed by State and Territory Legislation and by awards and agreements.
You should refer to you award or agreement to find out how much long service leave you are entitled to. You can also visit the Fair Work Australia website at www.fwa.gov.au for links to what kind of long service leave provisions apply in your State or Territory.
You can take community leave if you are required to attend jury service, participate in a voluntary emergency management activity, or in other special circumstances.
Community leave applies to casual and permanent workers.
A permanent worker who has to attend jury service of up to 10 days, is to be paid at their ordinary base rate of pay for this period. After this time the employer may not have to top up the allowance that is paid by the court. Check to see if your enterprise agreement covers this situation – if it doesn’t and you need to approach your employer for compensation contact your union who will help negotiate a fair deal.
- 1 January (New Years Day)
- 26 January (Australia Day)
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- 25 April (Anzac Day)
- Queen’s Birthday Holiday (on the day on which it is celebrated in your State or Territory)
- 25 December (Christmas Day)
- 26 December (Boxing Day)
This list is not inclusive of State or Territory holidays that might also apply to you, or that might replace some of the public holidays listed above. These include:
- Labour Day (date differs in each State/Territory)
- Melbourne Cup Day (Vic), Bank Holiday (NSW), Royal Qld Show (Qld), Picnic Day (NT), Adelaide Cup (SA), Foundation Day (WA), Royal Hobart Show (Tas)
- Easter Saturday (Vic, NSW, Qld, NT, SA), Easter Tuesday (Tas)
- Show Day (NT), Royal Hobart Regatta (Tas)
You should have public holidays away from work and be paid at your ordinary rate of pay for them.
Your employer can request you to work on public holidays, although the request must be reasonable under the circumstances. You should be paid above your ordinary pay rates if you do work on a public holiday.
Casual workers who are not rostered on to work on a public holiday, and part-time workers whose ordinary days do not fall on the public holiday, do not have to be paid for the public holiday, although they should be paid public holiday rates if they work on a public holiday.
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If you need help at work contact the Australian Unions Hotline on 1300 486 466 for free, confidential, advice and assistance.
Read our factsheets on all your rights, entitlements and conditions at work.
Change The Rules Factsheets
To find out the specific conditions and entitlements applicable to you in your job contact your union or call the Australian Unions workers’ helpline on 1300 362 223.
From 1 January 2010 a new national workplace relations system began to apply to most employees in Australia. This fact sheet provides details of your rights and entitlements under the Fair Work Act.
Fair Work Laws
As an employee, you are entitled to the following minimum employment terms and conditions:
- For full time employees – a maximum standard working week of 38 hours. Your employer can require you to work reasonable additional hours but you have the right to refuse unreasonable hours. Whether the hours are unreasonable will depend on your position, the arrangement of the hours, health and safety and your family responsibilities. Note that the relevant Modern Award may provide for averaging of hours over more than a week.
- The right to request flexible working arrangements to care for a child under school age, or a child (under 18) with a disability. Your employer must consider the request and can only refuse on reasonable business grounds.
- 12 months unpaid parental (or adoption) leave for each parent after the birth (or adoption) of a child. You also have the right to request a further twelve months unpaid parental leave. Your employer can only refuse on reasonable business grounds.
- Four weeks paid annual leave each year plus an additional week for some shift workers.
- Ten days paid personal or carer’s leave each year that carries over from year to year. You can use this leave when you’re sick or when you need to care for a member of your immediate family or household.
- Two days paid compassionate leave when a member of your immediate family or household dies or is seriously ill. If you require more time off, you can take two additional days of unpaid carer’s leave.
- Community Service Leave for jury service or activities dealing with certain emergencies or natural disasters. With the exception of jury service, this leave is unpaid.
- Long Service Leave. Your existing long service leave is secured by the new federal laws.
- Public holidays and the entitlement to be paid for ordinary hours on those days. Penalty rates for working on public holidays are provided for in Modern Awards and Enterprise Agreements. You have the right to reasonably refuse to work a public holiday.
- Notice of termination and redundancy pay.
- The right for new employees to receive the Fair Work Information Statement.
A complete copy of the National Employment Standards (NES) can be viewed at www.fairwork.gov.au. Please note some limitations may apply — for instance, if you are a casual employee your terms and conditions of employment will be slightly different.
For further information contact your union or phone 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
- Minimum wages
- Penalty rates
- Types of employment
- Flexible working arrangements
- Hours of work
- Rest breaks
- Leave and leave loadings
- Procedures for consultation, representation and dispute settlement.
- Some Modern Awards also contain industry-specific redundancy entitlements
The Modern Award that applies to your industry or occupation will apply to you unless the Award has been replaced by an Enterprise Agreement. If you are a manager or high income employee, the Modern Award may not apply to you, but the NES will.
Transitional arrangements to introduce Modern Awards will apply to wages, penalties and loadings for five years. Your employer is not permitted to use these transitional arrangements to reduce your take home pay.
For further information about Modern Awards or minimum rates of pay during the transition period contact your union or phone 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
Your wages and employment conditions may be set in an Enterprise Agreement that applies at your workplace. An enterprise agreement replaces the Modern Award, but not the NES, which continues to apply.
An enterprise agreement must be genuinely agreed to by the majority of employees at the workplace, and must leave employees better off overall than they would be if the award applied.
There are specific rules relating to the way in which enterprise agreements are made. These rules include:
- Your right to be represented (see further below)
- Bargaining or negotiations must be conducted in good faith
- Rules for taking industrial action
- Employees under the age of 18 require the co-signature of a parent or guardian when making an enterprise agreement
Once approved by Fair Work Australia, your Enterprise Agreement is enforceable and may provide for changes in your terms and conditions of employment.
Individual Flexibility Arrangements
Your Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement must include a flexibility term.
This term allows you and your employer to agree to an Individual Flexibility Arrangement (IFA), which varies the effect of certain terms of the Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement, which applies to you. The IFA must leave you better off overall than you would be if you remained covered by the award or agreement without variation.
You cannot be forced to make an IFA. IFAs are to be in writing and if you are under 18 years of age, your IFA must be co-signed by your parent or guardian. If you change your mind you can cancel the agreement by giving four weeks notice.
- Consulted about changes at your workplace
- Represented (including by a Union) in those consultations
- Represented (including by a Union) in disputes at work
The Small Business Dismissal Code also provides that employees must be given the opportunity to be represented in any discussions that might lead to dismissal.
You have the right to be represented in bargaining for an enterprise agreement. Your employer must recognise and bargain with bargaining representatives.
If you are a Union member, then your Union is your bargaining representative. The Union can attend meetings and negotiate directly with your employer on your behalf.
If you are not a Union member, you can nominate the Union as your bargaining representative. The Union can become involved at any stage in the agreement-making process provided the Union has at least one member at your workplace.
You have the right to invite a Union Official to your workplace to provide advice and assistance.
Union Officials can enter a workplace, even where the employer opposes their entry, provided the official has a valid entry permit and has provided sufficient notice of their intention to enter the premises.
Union Officials may visit your workplace for discussions with workers and to investigate suspected contraventions of workplace laws or occupational health and safety matters.
- You have a workplace right
- You make an inquiry or complaint in relation to your employment or workplace rights
- You join the Union or participate in lawful activities such as voting on an agreement or taking protected industrial action
- You perform a representative role in your workplace. This includes occupational health and safety representatives, harassment officers and union delegates
- Of your race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin
It is unlawful for an employer to place undue influence or pressure on you to agree to change certain employment arrangements. For example your employer can not pressure you to sign an Individual Flexibility Arrangements.
It is unlawful for an employer to coerce you to exercise your workplace rights in a particular way. For example your employer can not pressure you not to take leave to which you are entitled.
An employee, Union or Fair Work Inspector, can enforce a workplace right. Please note that applications relating to General Protections which involve a dismissal must be lodged with Fair Work Australia within 60 days.
If you have experienced unfair treatment, you should contact your union or phone 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
Termination of Employment
If your employment is terminated, including through redundancy, resignation or dismissal, you are entitled to receive any outstanding employment entitlements. This may include:
- Outstanding wages
- Payment in lieu of notice
- Payment for accrued annual leave
- Long service leave
- Any applicable redundancy payments
Your employer should not dismiss you in a manner that is ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable’.
If this occurs, it may constitute ‘unfair dismissal’ and you may be eligible to apply to Fair Work Australia for your job back or compensation.
All employees are protected from unfair dismissal provided they have served the qualifying period. The qualifying period is 12 months for small business employees and 6 months for everyone else.
Please note that unfair dismissal applications must be lodged within 21 days of dismissal. There are special provisions that apply to employees in small businesses, including the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code.