News Article

latest news in employment law

Casual staff

Published 15 Aug 2019

“I have a Casual” is how the conversation between numerous business owners and HR start. The conversations are seldom about the casual nature of the employment relationship but usually about other employment issues. The fact that we start the conversation with the statement to indicate that we are talking about someone that is not deemed an employee in the full sense of legislation should raise a question.

Casual employees are not defined in employment legislation but refers to where the employee has no guaranteed hours of work, no regular pattern of work and no expectation of permanent employment. The employee works as and when they are required by the business. The employee has no obligation to render their services and the employer has no obligation to offer continued work.

If you are employing someone on a casual basis, the arrangement/intention must be made clear from the onset and noted in the employment agreement. It's mandatory for every employee, casual or permanent, to have a written employment agreement.

Employment rights and responsibilities still apply to casual employees, but the entitlement to leave and some other benefits vary. The termination of a casual employee is also not always required. The employer simply ceases to engage them any further. This limits the casual employee's right to raise a dismissal dispute. Casuals are often paid their 8% holiday entitlement as they go, and as such there's no further pay upon termination.

These are a few reasons as to why employers use casual agreements but this is not without its risks and here are a few things to consider prior to appointing and/or renewing a casual agreement;

What happens if there is a marked increase or decrease in the employee's working hours/work load?
The following should be considered;

  • Is there a clear pattern in the work hours and/or shifts;
  • How long has this been increased and/or will it be increased for;
  • What reasonable motive exist for the change?

If this is not handled correctly and/or accompanied by justifiable reasons this could create an expectation of future work and/or guarantee of income for the employee. The casual employee will be deemed permanent and be entitled to the same benefits and protections, and further, termination of the contract is subject to the usual lengthy processes.

What happens if a casual employee refuses to work?
They have the right to refuse any work offered and this does not breach their agreement. Unless the refusal is continuing and/or re-occurring the agreement will continue and the employee will still have their rights in term of the agreement. The employer has limited to no recourse when a casual employee reasonably refuses work.

What happens when the casual employment contract comes to an end?
The parties to the agreement will go their own way. The casual employee is free to seek other employment and the employer is free to enter into new employment agreements for the same/similar work. However, should the casual employee not accept the original intention of the employment relationship the employer may be in for a personal grievance.

The moral of the story is, if you wish to engage casual staff be sure to use a good Casual Employment Agreement, and review the nature of the engage every few months.