What is a casual worker?
A casual worker is someone who is employed without a fixed arrangement around how long they will be employed for or set days and hours for when they will work.
A casual employee is not usually guaranteed the same hours each week, nor are they guaranteed any work at all. They will typically work different hours each roster, for example, one month they may work every weekend but the next month they may only be rostered on for two Mondays. They may also be called in during full or part-time employees’ leave periods to cover the absence.
A casual employee is able to end their employment without notice (and the employer may also cease to employ a casual worker without notice), unless they have entered into a registered agreement, award or employment contract that stipulates notice of termination of employment must be given by either party.
Casual workers are paid a higher rate than their part-time and full-time counterparts, even if they are undertaking the same job. This higher rate incorporates the entitlements they do not qualify for such as annual leave and personal leave and is referred to as ‘casual loading’.
Are there circumstances where a casual worker is ever entitled to full-time entitlements?
Generally speaking, full-time entitlements are not available to casual workers. However, in May 2020, a Federal Court ruling found that casual employees who work full-time hours should be entitled to the same leave entitlements that full-time employees enjoy. This includes paid annual leave and paid sick leave.
The reason for the ruling was due to the fact that the Federal Court found that the worker in question's employment was "regular, certain, continuing, constant and predictable". His shifts were given to him in advance, which is a-typical of a regular casual worker’s arrangement. Therefore, the Court found that he should be eligible for the same entitlements as a full-time employee, despite the fact that his pay was 25% higher to account for the full-time entitlements he did not qualify for as a casual worker. The Court did take his higher rate of pay into account and felt that he should forfeit the inflated wage in exchange for the entitlements.
I am a casual employee who works regular shifts. Does this mean I am now entitled to annual leave and personal leave?
Not exactly. The recent precedent set by the Federal Court does not mean that all casual workers who maintain regular hours are automatically entitled to paid leave. However, it is something for employers to look out for in the future.
So, do I qualify for any leave entitlements as a casual worker?
Yes. Casual employees are entitled to the following:
- Maternity leave (unpaid) after a period of continual employment no less than 12 months;
- Two days of carer's leave (unpaid) and two days of compassionate leave (unpaid) per occasion;
- Five days of family and domestic violence leave within a 12-month period (unpaid);
- Community service leave, such as leave used for jury duty or volunteering with emergency services (unpaid).
If you are a casual worker who believes that they may be entitled to full-time entitlements or you are concerned about other aspects of your casual employment, contact one of our employment lawyers for advice today.