Six common questions about casual employees

BY Australian Retailers Association
14 March 2018

With autumn settled in, retail in Australia sets into full swing for the rest of the year. Many businesses are planning for strong retail sales in the upcoming months, planning and executing the next phase of their 2018 strategy. It is this time of the year where recruitment plays an important role, as many retailers decide to maintain their Christmas casuals, while others look into hiring new casuals to join their team.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) have been at the forefront in advocating and supporting retailers on a range of employment law opportunities. This past year alone has seen significant changes to the industry, including new obligations employers have over their casual staff. No need worry though, the ARA has you covered.

Here are the answers to the most common questions that ARA members have in relation to casual employees.

1. Do casual employees need a written contract of employment?

There is no legal requirement to have a written contract of employment for any employee.

But what happens when everything goes wrong?

A well-drafted employment contract is first and foremost designed to protect you, the employer. As an ARA member, you have free access to template employment contracts for all your staff through the ERMS. We highly recommend creating an employment contract for each of your employee’s in order to outline the terms and conditions of their employment.

2. How much notice do I have to give if I want to cancel a rostered shift for a casual employee?

This is usually covered in the employment contract. A casual employee under the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA) must be rostered for a minimum of three hours per shift. However, a rostered shift can generally be cancelled by giving the person reasonable notice, which can be as little as one hours’ notice.

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3. Do casual employees get overtime?

Yes. Until January 2018 overtime rates have only applied to full-time and part-time employees under a number of Awards, including the GRIA. However, overtime entitlements have now been extended to casual employees from 1 January 2018. All ARA members can log into the ERMS to access casual overtime rates or contact the Telephone Advisory Service for further information.

4. Do casual employees get penalty rates?

Casual employees are generally entitled to penalty rates depending on the days and times they work. For example, casual employees covered by the GRIA are entitled to an additional 10% penalty for hours worked on Saturdays, and an additional 95% on Sundays.

Note, as part of the decision to reduce Sunday penalty rates, Sunday penalty rates for casuals will decrease to an additional 85% from July 1st 2018.

Casual employees are entitled to time-and-a-half on public holidays.

5. Can a casual employee bring an Unfair Dismissal Claim?

A Casual employee who has served the minimum employment period and has been employed on a regular and systematic basis can bring an Unfair Dismissal Claim. A casual employee can also bring a General Protections claim or a Discrimination claim.

A number of recent cases have seen casual employees awarded significant compensation following termination of employment. Members are advised to always contact the ARA Employment Relations team and discuss the risks prior to termination.

6. Can a casual employee take unpaid parental leave?

A causal employee is eligible for unpaid parental leave only if:

   a. they have been working for the employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months; and
   b. The casual has a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis, had it not been for the birth or adoption of a child.

For more information regarding casual workers, ARA members can contact the Employment Relations team on 1300 368 041. Find out more information about ARA memberships here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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