Seven common questions about casual employees

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has been at the forefront of advocating and supporting retailers on a range of employment law opportunities.

Over the past few years we have seen significant changes to the industry, including new obligations employers have over their casual staff. But don’t worry, the ARA has you covered.

  1. Do casual employees need a written contract of employment?

There is no legal requirement to have a written contract of employment for a casual employee, but a well-drafted employment contract is first and foremost designed to protect you, the employer.

As an ARA member, you have free access to template employment contracts for all your staff through the ERMS. We highly recommend creating an employment contract for each of your employees to outline the terms and conditions of their employment.

  1. How much notice do I have to give if I want to cancel a rostered shift for a casual employee?

This is usually covered in the employment contract. However, a rostered shift can generally be cancelled by giving the person reasonable notice prior to them coming to work; this can be as little as one hours’ notice.

It is also important to remember that casual employees under the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA) must be rostered for a minimum of three hours per shift.

  1. Do casual employees get overtime?

Yes. Before January 2018 overtime rates have only applied to full-time and part-time employees under several Awards, including the GRIA. However, overtime entitlements were extended to casual employees from 1 January 2018.

Casual employees get overtime rates if they work:

  • More than 38 hours a week, or 38 hours a week averaged over a roster cycle
  • More than 11 hours for 1 day a week, and more than 9 hours on any other day
  • Outside the spread of ordinary hours listed in the GRIA

All members can log into the ERMS to access casual overtime rates or contact the toll-free ARA Employment Relations Advisory Team on 1300 368 041 (select option 1) for further information.

  1. Do casual employees get penalty rates?

Throughout 2018 and 2019, there have been many changes to the penalty rates for casuals covered by the GRIA.As of July 1, 2019, the Sunday penalty rate for casual employees covered by GRIA has decreased to an additional 75% (inclusive of the casual loading).

Casuals are also entitled to a penalty payment for any ordinary hours worked on a Saturday. From 1 October 2019 to 29 February 2020 a penalty payment of an additional 45% loading (inclusive of casual loading) will apply to casuals working ordinary hours on a Saturday. The Saturday penalty rate will increase to an additional 50% (inclusive of casual loading) from 1 March 2020.

Evening penalty rates apply to casuals who work ordinary hours after 6 pm Monday to Friday. From 1 October 2019 to 29 February 2020, an additional 35% loading (inclusive of casual loading) will apply. Note, this penalty will increase again from 1 March 2020.

On public holidays, casuals are entitled to an additional 150% (inclusive of the casual loading).

  1. Can a casual employee bring an Unfair Dismissal Claim?

A casual employee who has served the minimum employment period and has been employed on a regular and systematic basis can bring an Unfair Dismissal Claim. A casual employee can also bring a General Protections claim or a Discrimination claim.

A number of recent cases have seen casual employees awarded significant compensation following termination of employment. Members are advised to contact the ARA Employment Relations Advisory Team and discuss the risks prior to termination.

  1. Can a casual employee take unpaid parental leave?

A casual employee is eligible for unpaid parental leave only if:

  • the casual has been working for the employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months; and
  • the casual has a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis, had it not been for the birth or adoption of a child.
  1. Can casuals request to become a permanent employee?

Yes. A regular casual employee has the right to request to convert their employment to full-time or part-time. A regular casual employee is defined in GRIA to mean a casual who has in the preceding 12 months worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis, which, without significant adjustment, the employee could have continued to perform as a full-time or part-time employee.

By now, all employers should have provided all existing casual employees (whether regular or not) with a copy of the relevant award provision, and any new casuals who commence employment should be issued with the clause within 12 months of their employment.  

There are certain grounds in which you can refuse these requests. Members should contact the ARA Employment Relations Advisory Team for more information on conversion requests and refusals.

For more information regarding casual workers, members can contact the ARA Employment Relations Advisory Team on 1300 368 041.

The ARA’s Employment Relations Advisory Team provides a free telephone consulting service for members on all employment matters and offer free online resources such as contracts and templates, as well as member rates for legal services specialising in Employment matters.






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