Whether it’s your very first job or your first step outside of full-time work, understanding the difference between part-time and casual can help you choose a role that suits your needs.
The rights of all Australian workers are protected in law, but the benefits and conditions of your next job will depend on how you’re employed. If you’re considering a part-time or casual role, what are you entitled to?
We’ve asked an employment lawyer to explain the differences.
Andrew Jewell, Principal, Jewell Hancock Employment Lawyers, explains that the key differences between part-time and casual come down to:
While part-time employees work a set number of hours per week (fewer than 38 hours), the hours that casuals work may vary – and the number of hours is not guaranteed.
“Casual employment has flexible hours which change [according to] a roster, while part-time employment involves set shifts,” says Jewell.
If you work part time, your hours are generally the same from week to week. If you’re a casual worker, you’re not obliged to work the hours you’re offered, but you also can’t demand hours. Most modern employment Awards include the minimum or maximum number of hours for a casual shift. For instance, if you’re a casual worker in a restaurant, can work a maximum of 12 hours per day or per shift, according the Restaurant Industry Award 2020.
“Part-time employees work set hours and there must be agreement to amend these, while casual employees work to rosters which can change in accordance with the roster period,” says Jewell.
Part-time employees earn a consistent wage based on their ordinary hours of work and they usually don’t receive additional pay for reasonable overtime.
Casual employees are paid on an hourly basis and the rate may be higher than part-time employees due to a ‘casual loading’, which is an additional payment on top of the higher hourly rate.
“Casual employees generally receive a casual loading of 25 percent, while part-time employees do not,” says Jewell.
Jewell explains that both part-time and casual employees receive superannuation on their earnings.
Businesses are required to pay superannuation contributions to employees aged over 18, and to employees aged under 18 who work more than 30 hours in a week.
Part-time employees receive the whole suite of benefits under the Fair Work Act, such as paid annual leave and paid personal/carers leave.
While casual workers don’t receive paid leave, they have entitlements under the National Employment Standards. These include two days unpaid carer's leave and two days unpaid compassionate leave per occasion, as well as five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave (in a 12-month period) and unpaid community service leave.
“Casual employees also do not accrue annual or personal leave, but part-time employees do,” says Jewell.
Jewell explains that dismissal procedures – in other words, the ways you can be ‘fired’ or let go – are different for part-time and casual workers.
“Casual employment can generally be ended with one day’s notice, while part-time employees are owed notice under the National Employment Standards,” he says.
The notice period for part-time work starts the day after an employer says that they are ending the employment. The minimum notice periods generally depend on the length of continuous service, but employees aged over 45 years old who have worked for the employer for at least two years receive an extra week of notice.
Part-time employees may also receive a redundancy payout from their employers and have greater protection from unfair dismissal.
The Fair Work Act regards a dismissal to be unfair if it is ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable’. For instance, if an employer dismisses a part-time employee without reason, it may be considered unfair under the Fair Work Act.
Jewell explains that part-time employees are protected from unfair dismissal after they have been employed for a period of six months.
“After this period, the reason for their dismissal cannot be harsh, unjust or unreasonable, and employees must be afforded procedural fairness when being dismissed.”
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.
“Whether this is the case will depend on the individual circumstances of the casual employee’s employment.”
All workers in Australia are legally entitled to safe and fair employment. These rights are covered in work health and safety (WHS), workers compensation and equal opportunity legislations.
For instance, your employer is required to provide adequate training and information to make sure that you’re safe from injury and risks to your health. The model WHS Act defines ‘health’ as both physical and psychological health. This means your employer must manage the health and safety risks of workplace bullying, as well as risks associated with your physical work environment.
Employers also have a legal responsibility to ensure that everyone who works for them is treated fairly and with respect.
“If a part-time or casual employee believes they have been unfairly dismissed, they can make a claim to the Fair Work Commission. However, in the case of a casual employee they would need to be a regular and systematic casual employee.
“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,” adds Jewell. “If you’re unsure about or need help with any of these issues, it’s best to contact a specialist employment lawyer.”
Understanding your employment rights can give you an extra layer of confidence at work. Your benefits and entitlements will differ depending on how you’re employed. Before you accept your next role, consider the conditions that matter most to you.
Information provided in this article is general only and it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. SEEK provides no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability or completeness. Before taking any course of action related to this article you should make your own inquiries and seek independent advice (including the appropriate legal advice) on whether it is suitable for your circumstances.