There has been a lot of talk lately about casual employment arising from a Federal Court decision and imminent government industrial relations reforms.
Are you guilty of employing people as “casual” employees that should really be classified as permanent full time or permanent part time employees?
There are several reasons for this happening, which could include
What is casual, anyway?
I am not going to list any formal definitions here – those you can find quite easily on the Fair Work website, in your award or enterprise agreement. Instead, here are some examples that will illustrate what a true casual is.
Like many teenagers, I started my working life as a casual in a retail store.
In retail there are peak trading times like Mother’s Day, Christmas, sale periods and weekends. At these times a retail business will call in casuals to supplement their permanent staff to manage the increased workload resulting from things like an increase in stock levels, customer foot traffic and transactions.
From a business perspective you have your fixed wage costs (permanent staff) and your variable wage costs (casual staff). It makes sense to increase or decrease your variable costs in line with your increase or decrease in trading patterns, turnover and customer service requirements.
Another example is the employment of casuals in medical or health clinics.
Depending on the type of speciality, workloads could be influenced by things such as the season, school holidays or major health initiatives and in these instances, the clinic may need to call in extra help.
More commonly, casuals would be needed to cover periods of absence, for example when a medical receptionist is on annual or sick leave, there is a vacancy, a permanent employee is out attending training, or a new system is being introduced causing extra work for a temporary period.
Sometimes, when a new position is created, it is difficult to determine the exact workload and number of hours required. For example, a Chiropractor has decided, based on client growth, that it's time to hire an Administration Assistant. In this instance, the Chiropractor may start off hiring someone on a casual basis for a temporary period until he understands what the exact workload/time requirements are for the role. If it is an ongoing role, the position should become either a permanent part time or full time role once these requirements are fully understood.
Why do some people like working in a casual capacity?
Teenagers are an obvious one. They are generally looking for a few shifts here and there to earn extra money. They often don’t want to be tied down to regular shifts, and benefits such as personal and annual leave don’t interest them. Teenagers plans often change at the last minute, so if they suddenly have a party to go to on Friday night, they want the flexibility to let you know that they won’t be available.
Carers and parents are another example. Their carer duties may be their primary responsibility, but they are keen to work on a casual basis to earn extra income, keep their workplace skills current and interact with people in the workplace. Again, they may not want to, or are able, to commit to a fixed pattern of work.
Retirees are also a great example, they may want to remain active in the workforce but don’t want to commit to a fixed schedule providing them with freedom to participate in outside interests, spend time with grandchildren or travel.
Others may prefer the higher rate (casual loading) over the benefits of permanent employment and for some people, casual employment may be the only type of employment they can secure.
Take the test
Worried you might be doing the wrong thing? Then ask yourself the following questions.
What should you do?
If you answered yes to most of the questions above, you have good reason to question whether your employee is a true casual and whether your organisation is at risk. Each employee and situation should be treated based on its individual circumstances including the needs of the organisation and the employee.
Need help with next steps?
Don’t rush out and make any changes without the right advice and guidance. If you need help with next steps I would recommend you seek advice from an HR Professional or Employment Lawyer.
Contact us for a no-obligation call to see how we can help.