‘Casual employee’ isn’t defined in employment legislation, but the term is usually used to refer to a situation where the employee has no guaranteed hours of work, no regular pattern of work, and no ongoing expectation of employment. The employer doesn’t have to offer work to the employee, and the employee doesn’t have to accept work if it’s offered. The employee works as and when it suits both them and the employer. This can sometimes happen because it’s hard for the employer to predict when the work needs to be done, or when the work needs to be done quickly. Each time the employee accepts an offer of work it is treated as a new period of employment.

If you are employed to do casual work, the arrangement must be made clear in your employment agreement.

Employment rights and responsibilities also apply to casual employees, but the way in which annual holidays, sick and bereavement leave are applied can vary for these employees.

Casual employees vs part-time employees

It’s important not to confuse part-time employees with casual employees. Some employees who are described as ‘casual’ are in fact part-time employees with a clear work pattern. It’s also possible for an employee to start out as casual but become a part-time permanent employee.

Rights and responsibilities of casual employees

Casual employees have largely the same rights and responsibilities as permanent employees with a few exceptions.

Dismissing a casual employee

Each time a casual employee accepts the offer to work it’s considered a new period of employment. If an employer decides to stop offering work, this doesn’t count as a dismissal because the employer has no responsibility to provide work. However, if an employer sends an employee home in the middle of a shift or goes back on an agreement to provide work for a shift then this could mean that they were dismissed.

Holiday and leave entitlements

Because casual employees don’t have set hours, it may be not practical for them to take annual holidays. The employee and employer can agree that an extra 8% will be paid on top of their wages or salary instead of taking annual holidays.

Casual employees are also entitled to sick leave and bereavement leave after 6 months of starting work if during that time they have worked:

  • an average of at least 10 hours a week, and
  • at least one hour a week or 40 hours a month.

Employment agreements for casual employees

It’s recommended that a casual employment agreement outlines the details of an employee’s work hours. This should make clear:

  • that there is no guarantee of work on a specific day
  • that the amount of work will fluctuate
  • that each time the employee accepts an offer of work it’s considered a new period of employment. The terms of the agreement are to apply to each new period
  • how the employer will let the employee know when there is work available
  • that the employee doesn’t have to make themselves available for work.Find out more about having to be available for work or shifts.

To see the full reference, click here

Penny Varley

Payroll Administrator