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Casual vs. permanent part-time: What it means for your workplace rights

Whether you’re searching for a new casual job or experiencing problems at your current workplace, understanding what your employment status means is critical for protecting your rights at work. Your entitlements change depending on your type of employment, so it’s important to be aware of exactly what it means to be a part-time or casual worker.

Part-time workers

A permanent part-time employee is someone who works regular and ongoing hours, but fewer hours a week than someone working full-time.

Generally, you'll be a part-time employee if:

  • You work less than 38 hours a week
  • You have a regular pattern of hours, or
  • You're a permanent employee or on a fixed-term contract.

Part-time employees are granted entitlements such as annual leave, sick leave and carers leave on a pro-rata basis according to their hours worked. Unlike casual employees, part-time workers are also guaranteed ongoing employment (or a fixed-term contract) and must give or receive notice to end their employment.

For more information on your rights and entitlements in a resignation take a look at our blog post relating to this topic.

Casual workers

Although there's no definition of ‘casual’ in Australia's employment legislation, it’s generally assumed to mean someone who works as required by their employer. This means casual employees aren’t guaranteed regular hours or ongoing employment and are instead retained on an 'as needs' basis.

Generally, you'll be a casual employee if:

  • You don’t have weekly guaranteed hours
  • You usually work irregular hours, and
  • You don’t receive sick leave or annual leave.

Generally, casual employees aren't entitled to a minimum period of notice prior to termination. So if you're casual, you can be fired or quit without giving notice.

Instead of the usual entitlements of full and part-time employees, casual workers are entitled to receive a higher rate of pay. This is sometimes referred to as ‘casual loading’ and effectively compensates casual workers for not having benefits such as holiday entitlements and sick leave.

Importantly, a casual employee can change to full-time or part-time employment at any time if the employer offers it, and the employee agrees. Some Modern Awards include casual conversion clauses where casual employees can apply to be converted to permanent employment.

After 12 months of regular and systematic employment, and if there's a reasonable expectation that this will continue, a long term casual employee can also:

And finally, it is important to look behind labels. In some cases, although employees were described as casuals, the courts have found that the true position was that they were permanent employees because they had:

  • firm advance commitment from their employers
  • to continuing and indefinite work
  • according to an agreed pattern of work

They were therefore entitled to valuable accrued annual leave, sick leave and other entitlements under their awards or agreements.

Shine Lawyers - Your employment law experts

Understanding your rights and entitlements as an employee can be complicated. If you’re experiencing difficulties in your place of work, get in touch with our specialist team of employment lawyers to find out if there are legal avenues available to you.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: August 31, 2020.

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