The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is creating business uncertainty. As a result, businesses are considering how to address employee work health and safety and to reduce their costs. As an employer, you may be undertaking this process. One type of workforce to consider is your casual employees. 

This article explains:

  • what casual employment is;
  • how to address work health safety obligations that relate specifically to casual employees; and 
  • what you can do to reduce or end casual employees’ engagement.

What Are Casual Employees?

A casual employee works irregular hours with no guarantee of ongoing or regular work hours. Both parties may benefit from such flexibility.

For example, as an employer, you are able to offer shifts to employees as and when the need arises; a casual employee may choose to accept or refuse shifts depending on their other commitments.

Casual employment is different to permanent employment because permanent employees work regular hours and have a guarantee of ongoing regular work. In addition, permanent employees receive entitlements such as annual leave and paid personal/carer’s leave (known as sick leave). 

Because they do not receive these entitlements, casual employees receive a 25% casual loading. This means that a casual employees’ rate of pay is 25% higher than a permanent employee’s rate of pay.

What Happens to Casual Employees During COVID-19?

Sick Leave and Carer’s Leave

Casual employees who are:

  • sick and unable to work; or
  • are caring for an unwell family member

do not receive any pay for these days off work. There is a risk that they may still choose to work, even if they suspect they have COVID-19, in order to earn a living. As a result, it is important to consider your work health safety obligations to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable. 

In practice, this could mean sending a casual employee home if they are visibly unfit for work. Some employers are opting to pay sick leave to casual employees if they:

  • are quarantined;
  • infected; or
  • have to care for others affected by COVID-19.

This incentives employees to stay at home if they are unfit for work including where they suspect they are infected with COVID-19. This goes beyond what is required of employers under the Fair Work Act but speaks to employers’ work health safety obligations.

Termination Entitlements

Casual employees are not entitled to notice of termination or redundancy pay. As a result, if you are seeking to reduce costs during the downturn, one option is to no longer engage your casuals, therefore reducing your headcount and payroll spend. Employers must ensure those casual employees are true casuals or otherwise risk claims from the employee in relation to permanent entitlements (like redundancy pay, annual leave, sick leave or notice of termination).

Key Takeaways

Casuals work irregular hours of work with no guarantee of ongoing or regular work. They are not entitled to paid personal or carer’s leave and so, there is a higher risk of them choose to work even if they are unfit to do so. This poses a work health and safety risk not only to themselves, but to you and your employees. 

You should consider sending casual employees home if they’re unfit for work or financially incentivising them to stay home. If you no longer have enough demand or cannot afford casuals, you may also consider no longer offering them any shifts. If you need help navigating your employment obligations during COVID-19 pandemic, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

 

COVID-19 Business Survey
LegalVision is conducting a survey on the impact of COVID-19 for businesses across Australia. The survey takes 2 minutes to complete and all responses are anonymous. We would appreciate your input. Take the survey now.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

The majority of our clients are LVConnect members. By becoming a member, you can stay ahead of legal issues while staying on top of costs. For just $199 per month, membership unlocks unlimited lawyer consultations, faster turnaround times, free legal templates and members-only discounts.

Learn more about LVConnect

Nathalie King
Need Legal Help? Get a Free Fixed-Fee Quote

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

  • By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails from LegalVision and can unsubscribe at any time. See our full Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Our Awards
  • 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn
  • 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards
  • 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards
  • Most Innovative Law Firm - 2019 Australasian Lawyer 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer
Privacy Policy Snapshot

We collect and store information about you. Let us explain why we do this.

What information do you collect?

We collect a range of data about you, including your contact details, legal issues and data on how you use our website.

How do you collect information?

We collect information over the phone, by email and through our website.

What do you do with this information?

We store and use your information to deliver you better legal services. This mostly involves communicating with you, marketing to you and occasionally sharing your information with our partners.

How do I contact you?

You can always see what data you’ve stored with us.

Questions, comments or complaints? Reach out on 1300 544 755 or email us at info@legalvision.com.au

View Privacy Policy