Do you need to understand the difference between a permanent and a casual employee?  This article explains the distinction between the two categories of workers under Australian law.

Defining the casual employee

Unlike a full-time employee a casual employee has no expectation of continuing full-time work.  A casual employee is also excluded from the ten minimum employment standards (NES) under the Fair Work Act.  NES rights include all types of leave and redundancy provisions. Your industry or workplace may also have its own definition of a casual employee in the agreement or award.

12 months or less rule

One of the major distinctions between a casual and a full time employee is whether or not the worker has been working regularly for a period of 12 months or whether they have been working irregular hours for less than 12 months. If you are planning on hiring someone as a casual, you should tell them the contract is non-permanent and that their employment status will be as a casual.

Loading and overtime

Under most modern awards, casuals are entitled to a 25% loading per hour worked.  Some casuals will also be entitled to overtime if they work over a certain amount of hours each day.

Unfair dismissal

Contrary to popular belief, casual workers do actually have the right to unfair dismissal if they have worked in the same job for six months.  However, if the company they worked for has less than 15 employees, they will have to wait 12 months before being able to put in an unfair dismissal claim.

Termination notice

A casual employee is not normally entitled to any notice periods when ending their employment.

Conversion to full-time/permanent

You need to look to your modern award to see whether there are specific provisions which give a worker the right to elect to go to become a permanent employee after a certain period of time.  Many awards state that an employee can elect to become permanent after a six or 12 month period.

Difference between casual and part-time staff

Part-time staff work less than 38 hours per week, but they are hired in an ongoing role and work the same hours each week.  They have a continuing expectation of work each week and are covered by the NES. Casual workers, by contrast, have no continual right to get work shifts from you each week.

Allowance and penalties for casuals

While casuals are not guaranteed any allowances or penalties, many modern awards state that:

  •  Casuals are entitled to get a higher rate of pay on public holidays, though they are not entitled to get any pay for public holidays they do not work.
  • Casuals are entitled to be paid penalty rates for weekend, evening and night work.
  • Casuals are entitled to get exactly the same rest breaks as full-time employees, including at least one 30 minute break for every five hours they work.
  • Casuals are entitled to have their shifts set a minimum length.

Workplace safety and discrimination

Casual workers are also entitled to a safe workplace and are covered by discrimination laws.


The main benefit of employing a casual worker is that they don’t have to work the same set hours each week and do not have to been given work each week.  The major difference between a permanent and a casual employee is the continuing expectation of work.  However, as this article demonstrates, other than leave rights; casual workers still have a fairly broad range of workplace rights. If you require online legal advice or advice from an employment lawyer, contact LegalVision.

Lachlan McKnight
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