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Different types of employment agreements and arrangements

Casual work arrangements

Your rights as a casual worker

An employee and an employer can agree to a casual employment relationship, where the work is intermittent and irregular.

If you’re a casual employee, your employer doesn’t have to offer you any work and you don’t have to accept any offer. If you work for the employer on one occasion, you have no guarantee of being rehired later on.

Being a casual employee may affect your employment in other specific areas. For example, casual employees can agree to receive their annual holiday pay on a “pay as you go” basis (see “Annual holidays (Annual leave)/ When will I be paid my annual holiday pay?” in the chapter “Employment conditions and protections”).

Note: For laws about “zero-hour” contracts and availability clauses, see the section “Hours, shifts and breaks” in the chapter “Employment conditions and protections”.

Identifying whether you’re a casual or permanent worker

If there’s doubt about whether you’re a casual or permanent employee, the key factors in deciding this will be how regular and how continuous the work is. This can be assessed by looking at both of the following:

  • Your employment agreement – Does it include terms that are inconsistent with casual employment? For example, it may require you to take work when it’s offered, or stop you from working for other employers, or require you to tell your employer when you’re not available for work.
  • The behaviour of the two parties – Has this created a fair and reasonable (“legitimate”) expectation that more work will be offered, or that it will be accepted if it’s offered? For example, if you’ve been working a regular 30-hour week for six months, you might have a legitimate expectation of further work.

Whether you’re a casual employee or permanent employee will depend on the real nature of your employment relationship, not simply on the words (such as “casual” or “permanent”) that you and your employer have used to describe it. If your work is regular and ongoing, it is more likely that you’re a permanent employee.

If your employer calls you a “casual” employee but you’re wondering if you might really be a permanent employee, you can get advice from your union or local community law centre.

Note: If as a casual employee you’ve been offered and have accepted work (for example, you’ve been rostered on for particular days), then an employment relationship now exists. This means your employer will need a legitimate reason if they no longer want you to work those days and will also have to follow a correct process, as with any other employee.

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