At present, approximately 20% of all Australian employees are casual. As this type of employment is a unique kind of working relationship, employees of the kind need to know what they can expect in their contracts. This article details those matters that a casual employee should look for in a casual employment contract.
What is a Casual Employee?
Unlike part-time and full-time employment, casual workers have no set hours of work or guarantee of ongoing work. Their hours of work are typically not fixed or regular, and they have no right to sick leave or annual leave. However, casual employees can terminate their employment at any time.
Types of Employee Agreements
In general, employers hire casual employees using one of three different kinds of employee agreements:
- Enterprise Agreements; or
- Employment Contracts.
An award is an industrial instrument that sets minimum terms and conditions for those employees covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Awards apply according to a type of industry or occupation rather than particular enterprise.
An enterprise agreement details the terms and conditions of employment between the employees and employers of a particular business or group of businesses. They differ from awards in that they concern the needs of an individual enterprise rather than industry or occupation. However, an agreement cannot pay less than the award. A business can apply to the Fair Work Commission to register its agreement. If it receives approval, the award is not applicable to the business’ employees.
An employment contract is an oral or written agreement made between an employer and employee outlining the terms and conditions of employment. It cannot provide less than the minimums provided in any applicable award or agreement or the National Employment Standards.
What to Look for in a Casual Employment Contract
If you are a casual employee, you are entitled to only four of the ten minimum entitlements listed in the National Employment Standards. These standards apply to all employees in the national workplace system irrespective of kind of employee agreement. These are:
- Two days unpaid carer’s leave;
- Two days unpaid compassionate leave (per occasion);
- Unpaid community service leave; and
- The Fair Work Information Statement.
When you receive your employee agreement, check that it provides for the first three entitlements. You must also receive a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement.
Also, all casual employees should be given an hourly wage rate higher than that of full-time and part-time employees. The rate includes a loading to compensate these employees for lack of benefits like annual leave or sick leave. You need to be sure that your agreement provides this. If it doesn’t, you will receive none of the benefits and all of the drawbacks of being a casual employee.
As a casual, you should be sure to check if and when you are entitled to receive penalty rates. For example, some agreements provide casual employees with penalty rates when they work on public holidays or Sundays. Whether and when you receive penalty rates is agreement specific, so make a point to be informed on this point.
Although it is possible to end casual employment without notice, it will be prudent to check for any provisions relating to unfair dismissal in your casual employment contract. Casuals have a right to access the same unfair dismissal provisions as permanent staff if they have worked for their employer for the minimum employment period (usually six months but twelve months for employees of a small business), and they will be working on a regular and systematic basis.
Casuals should also check if the agreement has a permanent conversion clause. These clauses are agreement specific and allow a casual employee who has worked regularly for a given period to become a permanent member of staff.
When you receive your casual employment contract, you should also confirm that it corresponds to the usual situation regarding casual employees. You should not receive annual leave or sick leave or have any guarantee of ongoing work. You will also not be entitled to any payment on termination. However, you should receive the same allocated breaks as permanent staff.
More General Considerations
As an employee (not just a casual), you also need to verify that your agreement provides the standard employment provisions. You are entitled to work in a safe workplace, free from discrimination and harassment. If your income reaches the relevant threshold, your employer should make superannuation contributions and withhold the appropriate amount of income tax.
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