Are Casual Employees Really Casual?

Its easy to fall into the situation where you employ someone on a casual basis to meet a need of the business with all intentions of it being a short time i.e. in a peak period.

But time flies and we are all busy that sometimes it never gets re-looked at.

The employee is happy - they have continuous regular income. You are happy, the initial need is being met and your focus is now on other things. So where's the problem you might ask?

The problem comes when there is disagreement between the employee and the business or when you try end the "casual contract". If the employee takes the claim to the courts, the court would look at "substance over form" ie the actual working pattern and payments will outweigh the written contract.

Some pointers to consider when deciding what type of employment is being offered:

Employment of a permanent nature is:
  • predictable and consistent work pattern
  • mutual employment obligations ie obligation of employer to provide work and the expectation of employee to be paid.
  • routine inclusion in a roster of work prepared in advance
  • exclusion of 8% holiday pay from wages
  • leave application approval required
Casual employment is:
  • irregular in engagement
  • employer does not justify why an employee is needed
  • no expectation for work from either employee/employer beyond current employment.
Fixed Term contract:
  • set hours and day of work for predetermined time
  • related to specific project or event (eg cover maternity leave)
  • comes to an end for a specific reason which must be given to the employee
  • creates predictibility and reliability for both employee and employer
Businesses need to review their casual contracts periodically and ensure that the type of employment is consistent with the contract. I've just realised that a "casual" staff has been with me on set days & hours for more than a year.

I'd better write up a permanent employment contract (from the department of labour employment agreement builder) so that the expectations between myself and my staff are recorded and recognised. Rather fix it now than have a problem later. We are not all perfect but we can fix our mistakes before they become a problem ...

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