By Zaynab Aly 

Casual employment has recently undergone a raft of legislative reform, including the introduction of casual conversion obligations, and are one of the most difficult employment types to define. So, what are casuals good for? 

Well, they’re perfect for an environment of uncertainty! During the first lockdowns in 2020, Woolworths created 20,000 new roles to meet the unprecedented demand for food and drinks. Most of these roles were casual to support a rapidly changing and unpredictable environment. Because casual employment offers such a high degree of flexibility, they’re more important to businesses than ever. 

In this article, I explain the benefits of having a casualised workforce and what it all means for employers going forward. 

What are the benefits of having a casual workforce? 

There are many benefits to a casual workforce, across most industry sectors. Given that casuals are engaged on an as-needed basis, these employees provide you with the flexibility to meet staffing requirements year-round, whether it’s increasing levels during busier periods or reducing staff in quieter times to meet costing requirements. Work that’s seasonal, reliant on the weather or evolves around specific events, is best served by a heavily casualised workforce to allow the employer to adapt to changing needs that cannot be predicted in advance with any certainty. 

As Australia moves away from lockdowns and towards re-opening, we can expect unpredictable variations in demand, and a casual workforce will be key in supporting business fluctuations. 

So, what’s in it for the casual worker? While casual employees do forgo some entitlements enjoyed by permanent employees such as paid leave and redundancy benefits, casuals are usually entitled to higher rates of pay through casual loadings imposed by the relevant modern awards or enterprise agreements. Especially for those looking for a better work-life balance, casual roles give employees flexibility that might not be available in permanent roles to accommodate other commitments such as study, family, and life in general.   

What does this mean for employers? 

Since the reforms to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) were introduced earlier this year, one of the key considerations in employing casuals is to provide them with clear contracts that specify their status as casual, confirm that they’re able to accept or reject work just as the employer is free to offer work only as it needs, and set out that the employee will receive casual loading but not entitlements such as paid annual leave, redundancy pay or paid personal leave. Getting it wrong at this engagement stage can have disastrous results, as an employee engaged incorrectly could expose your business to the risk of a claim for unpaid permanent entitlements.   

It’s also important to keep in mind the casual conversion requirements; if a casual has been employed for 12-months and has worked a regular pattern of hours on an ongoing basis which could continue to be worked on a full-time or part-time basis without significant adjustment for at least the last six months, the employer may be required to make an offer to convert them to permanent employment.  

If you’re looking for ways to meet changing demand as we navigate out of lockdown, it’s worth considering engaging casual staff to help you achieve this. We know it’s not always easy to manage the rules surrounding casual employment, but that’s why we’re here to help. 

If you’re an HR Assured client and need assistance with casual employment, contact our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service. 

Not an HR Assured client and need some advice? The team at HR Assured can support your business on a range of workplace matters. Contact us today to arrange a confidential, no-obligation chat. 

Zaynab Aly is a Workplace Relations Consultant at HR Assured. She has a particular interest in the retail industry and regularly provides advice on workplace matters to find solutions for clients.