Spotlight on part-time, contract and casual work
A full-time job with one employer was once considered the norm, however the structure of the Australian workforce looks very different today.

Forty years ago, around one in ten employees in Australia worked part time. More than a quarter of workers now fit this description. The rise of the gig economy is also seeing more people choosing to work as independent contractors and approximately 30% of the Australian workforce is now comprised of contingent workers.

Data from SEEK Employment Trends shows job ads for non-full time roles have been on the rise since 2010. Job ads for both part-time and contract/temp roles grew by 12% year-on-year in March while casual/vacation roles were up by 19%.

Focus on flexibility: Part-time, contract and casual roles

Peter Davis, Managing Director of Frontline Recruitment Group says non-full time roles can provide flexibility for both employers and candidates.

“This structure enables the client to either appoint a candidate for a specific project, or to ascertain whether the business can sustain this employment ongoing,” he explains. “On the candidate side, starting in a role casually is also beneficial as it allows them to see if the role and culture satisfies their needs before they commit to long-term employment.”

Natalie Rogers, Contracting Consultant with recruitment firm Six Degrees says employers are also restructuring roles in order to attract the best talent.

“From a candidate perspective there's a real thirst for that three-day-a-week role and it seems to be the unicorn,” says Rogers. “They may be returning from maternity leave, or they're studying, or for whatever reason they simply require flexibility. If an employer is able to offer flexible working hours or conditions, or a part-time role, it gives them access to either more senior talent, or talent that their competitors cannot get access to if they cannot offer flexibility.”

Rogers says contracting roles in particular allow employers to bring in extra resources to manage large-scale projects. “It means that you're not losing business momentum, or overstretching the staff that you currently have on board,” she explains.

Casual roles also allow employers to gain access to top talent when they need it. “One example is a growth in marketing managers who have worked for big advertising agencies and are now consulting back to smaller agencies,” explains Rogers. “This allows employers to get access to talent that they may not be able to afford in a permanent capacity. It can be advantageous for both sides.”

KPMG is one company embracing a more flexible approach to working. Barbara Taylor, KPMG’s Head of Talent, Diversity and Inclusion, explains that non-full time roles are an extension of the company’s commitment to flexible work and says approximately 10% of the company’s 6,000 employees in Australia now work part-time. “This has grown over recent years and I think this will continue in the future,” she says. “The benefit to our business is it enables us to retain and attract great people who prefer a part-time work arrangement.”

Trends across industries

While demand for non-full time roles varies across industries, the latest SEEK data shows the majority of sectors experienced growth across these classifications.

The advertising, arts and media industry saw a 10% year-on-year increase in SEEK job ads for casual roles while contract roles were up by 9% and part-time roles grew by 19%. In banking and financial services, casual roles were up by 22%, contract roles grew by 21%, while job ads for part-time roles slipped by 6%.

Government and defence saw a 27% year-on-growth in job ads for casual roles. Contract roles were up by 56% and part-time increased by 34%. “In Canberra in particular, the Federal Government is driving the demand for contract and casual roles with most government departments starting long-term programs of work,” explains Steve Jobson, Senior Account Manager at Talent International Canberra.

Although job ads for part time roles in the information and communications technology industry were down by 20% year-on-year in March, there was a 5% lift for contract roles. “The emergence of the gig economy has resulted in many IT professionals abandoning traditional forms of employment in favour of working more independently and with greater flexibility through contracting or freelance work,” says Jobson.

Building on workplace culture

As demand for non-full time work continues to grow, Rogers says employers must ensure these roles become a natural part of workplace culture. “It’s all about communication and definition of work roles.”

Taylor says employers can build non-full-time roles into their workplace culture by taking a broad approach to flexibility. “This creates conditions for all types of flexibility, including part time work,” she says.

Taylor also suggests a company’s HR team should work closely with managers on job design to ensure part-time roles can be done in part-time hours. “Get into the data on performance, promotion and pay reviews – and challenge if you need to, to ensure equity across full-time and part-time roles,” she says.

There is no one-size fits all when it comes to non-full time roles, adds Taylor. “For us, it’s about balancing the needs of the individual, their team, our business and our clients,” she says. “Effective communication is absolutely key to making sure that flexibility works for everyone – so focus on enabling and supporting that communication.”