We often hear about leave entitlements for full time and part time employees. However, casual employees can sometimes be overlooked. According to Australian employment statistics, there are currently 2.4 million Australians who are considered casual employees.
With a significant amount of the workforce engaging in casual employment, it’s important to talk about some of the rights casual workers are entitled to, especially if you’re thinking of employing some in your business.
In this article, we’ll go through casual worker leave entitlements in Australia.
What Are Leave Entitlements In Australia?
Leave entitlement refers to the amount and type of absences from work an employee is able to access, whether it is paid or unpaid.
Common types of leave employees undertake are sick leave, annual leave, long service leave, maternity leave and paternity leave.
Types Of Employment
Before we get stuck into looking at the actual leave entitlements for casual employees, let’s discuss the different types of employment and how they differ from one another.
In Australia, an average full-time employee works about 38 hours per week. This is commonly divided into common work hours during the weekdays (i.e. 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday).
The terms of their employment are usually fixed, therefore the hours and days of work for a full time employee cannot suddenly be altered.
Part-time employees work less than 38 hours per week. Like full time employees, they are usually hired on a permanent basis, with the terms of their contract being fixed and unable to change without their consent.
A casual employee does not have fixed hours or certain days where they are guaranteed to work and they have accepted this as part of their arrangement. Rather, casual employees are called into work when their place of employment needs them in.
If you are thinking of hiring casual employees to your business, it is crucial to provide them with the Casual Employment Information Statement prior to them starting work or soon after.
Contractors are another type of employment. They are usually hired externally from the business and for a certain period of time (i.e. 3 months) or until a certain task is complete (for example, hiring someone to work on a particular project for 6 weeks).
A contractor can appear much like a full or part time employee. If the actions of the employer or their employment agreement don’t specify they are a contractor, employers can sometimes end up owing contractors the same duties they have towards their internal employees. So, it’s always important to know the difference between an employee and a contractor.
To avoid confusion and to ensure you’re meeting your obligations to your workers, we always recommend getting a Contractor Agreement.
Are Casual Workers Entitled To Leave?
Casual workers don’t have the same leave entitlements as full-time and part-time employees. However, they still have rights – let’s take a closer look.
Are Casual Workers Entitled To Annual Leave?
Casual workers cannot receive annual leave. This refers to the paid time off an employee is entitled to each year. Part-time employees and full-time employees do have or are able to accumulate annual leave, however, this option is not available for casual employees.
Are Casual Workers Entitled To Sick Leave?
No, casual workers are not entitled to paid sick leave. They do have the option to simply not work on days they have been called in and are not feeling well, however, they are not entitled to days of paid sick leave.
Are Casual Workers Entitled To Long Service Leave?
As an employer, if an employee has been with you for 10 years, it’s time to start thinking about their long service leave entitlements.
Long service leave is paid leave for 2 months for part-time, casual and full-time employees that have been with the business for a certain period of time.
Casual employees are generally entitled to long service leave – you can get a more accurate calculation of long service leave requirements here.
Do Casual Workers Get Annual Leave Back Pay?
No, as casual workers cannot receive annual leave, they are also not entitled to annual leave back pay. The question of whether casual workers can receive back pay was under examination a few years ago during the WorkPac Pty Ltd v. Rossato & Ors case.
Essentially, Mr Rossato was a casual employee whose schedule looked a lot like a permanent employee due to the fixed nature of his schedule. The Federal Court upheld that while he was a casual employee, he was entitled to annual leave payments (which were to be received as back pay). However, upon appeal, the High Court rejected this notion.
As a result, casual employees in Australia are currently not entitled to annual leave or annual leave back pay.
Can You Change From Casual To Full Time?
Yes, casual employees can change to full time employees. In fact, when an employee has been working with a business for a period of 12 months, they are able to request a change in their employment status. This is known as ‘casual conversion’.
Casual conversion is available for those employees who have worked at their place of employment for 12 months and have been working regular hours for the last 6 months.
If an employee meets this criteria, they can either request or be offered either full-time or part-time permanent employment.
As an employer, you can either convert them to a permanent employee or refuse. However, if you choose not to, then you must provide the employee with ample reasons regarding your decisions.
To know about your duties and the rights of casual employees in more depth, read our breakdown of casual worker laws.
Can You Change From Full-Time To Casual?
It is possible for a full time employee to become a casual employee. However, this will depend on the circumstances. If an employee and an employer mutually agree on the employee becoming a casual worker then they can proceed (however, they may need a new Employment Contract reflecting the change).
As an employer, if you want to convert a full-time employee into a casual employee, then you will need to see whether your current employment agreement with them allows this. You will also need to determine if their awards allow this and what leave or entitlements need to be paid out first.
This can be tricky to maneuver without breaching any employment laws, so it’s best to approach an employment lawyer to help out.
What Else Are Casual Workers Entitled To?
Casual workers are entitled to receive a little more per hour than others doing the same job.
Casual workers get paid in terms of something called ‘casual loading’. This means that casual workers are paid higher than the usual base amount for workers in the same job in order to compensate for their uncertainty and irregular hours.
Jane works at a warehouse on a casual basis. The part time employees are all paid $25 an hour, however, Jane earns $35 for every hour she works due to casual loading.
In addition to casual loading, employees are also entitled to 5 days of unpaid domestic violence leave, 2 days of carers and compassionate leave as well as community service leave.
As an employer, it’s important to be aware of the obligations and duties you have towards your casual, part-time and full-time employees. To summarise what we’ve discussed:
- Leave entitlements refer to the time off work employees can rightfully take
- Leave entitlements differ for full-time, part-time, casual workers and contractors
- Casual workers are not entitled to annual leave or annual leave back pay
- Casual employees can convert to a permanent position after 12 months if they wish to do so unless the employer has reasonable grounds to refuse
- A full-time employee can be turned into a casual employee under certain circumstances
- Casual workers are able to receive casual loading along with limited compassionate, carers, domestic violence and community service leave
If you would like a consultation on casual worker leave entitlements, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, no-obligations chat.
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