If you’re considering a new job, you might be more interested in what the role itself involves than what kind of employee you’ll be hired as. But the benefits, entitlements and conditions of a job can differ depending on whether you’re a casual worker or a part-time or full-time employee. We’ve asked an expert employment lawyer to spell out the different rights each role has, and what you need to consider when deciding on a job.
Andrew Jewell, Principal Lawyer at McDonald Murholme says full-time and part-time employees essentially have the same rights. “The only difference between them is that part-time employees are engaged to work fewer hours than full-time employees,” he says.
For casuals, however, it’s different. “Traditionally, casuals are viewed by the law as only being employed on a one-off basis for the duration of their shifts,” Jewell says. “Each shift is seen as a new and separate period of employment that ends at the end of the shift.” This means conventionally speaking, when casual employees are in between shifts they’re not technically employees. But this view is starting to change and there are certain statutory exceptions for long-term casual employees.
Full-time employees are required to work 38 hours per week, plus any other reasonable additional (overtime) hours.
Jewell says that there is no strict rule regarding reasonable additional hours. “The hours that are required are generally determined by the nature of the work that is required to be done,” he says.
Part-time employees work fewer than 38 hours per week. “The number of hours worked per week differs from job to job and depends on what the employer and the employee have agreed upon,” Jewell says. “Once the hours per week have been agreed upon, the employee’s hours cannot be arbitrarily reduced or changed.”
Casual employees are employed ad hoc and as needed. “Casuals have no guaranteed hours of work and usually work irregular hours instead of a fixed roster,” Jewell says. “Employers have no obligation to provide casual employees with any work whatsoever.” Jewell advises casual employees are legally entitled to decline a rostered shift as long as they provide sufficient notice to their employer.
- Full-time and part-time
Full-time and part-time employees earn a consistent wage based on their ordinary hours of work. “Usually full-time and part-time employees do not receive any additional pay for reasonable overtime, although there are some exceptions for certain jobs that are paid on an hourly basis,” Jewell says.
Casual employees are paid on an hourly basis. “Casual employees receive a 25% loading on the equivalent full-time/part-time hourly rate to compensate them for having less security of employment,” Jewell says. “If a casual employee is required to work extra hours they will be compensated for it.”
Benefits and entitlements
- Full-time and part-time
“Full-time and part-time employees receive the whole suite of benefits under the Fair Work Act,” Jewell says. “They receive four weeks of paid annual leave, two weeks of paid personal/carers leave, and two days of paid compassionate leave per year, or the pro rata equivalent for part-time employees.”
Casual employees are not entitled to paid leave. “While they can still take leave, they are not entitled to be paid while absent from work,” Jewell says.
Under discrimination law, all employees are protected from dismissal or being treated less favourably on the basis of characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity or race.
It’s important to note, however, that the rights that employees have around making unfair dismissal claims (being a harsh, unjust or unreasonable dismissal) differ depending on the employee’s status.
- Full-time and part-time
“Full-time and part-time employees are protected from unfair dismissal after they have been employed for a period of six months,” Jewell says. “After this period, the reason for their dismissal cannot be harsh, unjust or unreasonable, and employees must be afforded procedural fairness when being dismissed (i.e. they are protected from unfair dismissal).”
In general, casual employees are not protected from unfair dismissal.
However, Jewell notes if a casual employee has been employed for at least six months on a regular and systematic basis and has a reasonable expectation of continuing employment on that basis, they’ll be protected from unfair dismissal despite being a casual employee. “Whether this is the case will depend on the individual circumstances of the casual employee’s employment,” Jewell adds.
All employees, regardless of their employment status, have an entitlement to superannuation payable by their employer.
Full-time and part-time employees have less flexibility than casuals. “(They) must seek approval from their employer before requesting leave, and normally are required to work set hours,” Jewell says. “Conversely, casuals can decline rostered shifts if they provide reasonable notice and take extended periods of leave.”
Jewell warns employees need to be aware this flexibility is a two-way street. “Just as casual employees can decline work and take extended breaks, so too can your employer stop providing you with work for extended periods,” he says. “Greater flexibility comes with a cost—lessened job security.”
Jewell says when choosing if you want to be employed on a full-time, part-time or casual basis, your main concern should be the level of job security you want. “A person who cannot afford to miss a week’s worth of pay (due to bills or other financial obligations) will prefer the greater security and paid leave that comes with full-time and part-time work,” he says.
It’s also worth noting your employment status could impact your ability to get a home loan or credit card. “Normally finance providers will want proof that you have consistent ongoing employment before providing you with a loan,” Jewell says. “Given that casual employment is by definition not consistent and can be terminated at any time, this will make it difficult for you to obtain a loan as your income stream will be deemed to be too risky by the finance provider.”
Before you accept full time, part-time or casual work, it’s important to know what’s involved in terms of your rights, benefits and the flexibility you have. If you’re unsure about or need help with any of these issues, it’s best to contact a specialist employment lawyer.