Casual employment can provide pros and cons for employees at different times in their lives, whilst allowing employers to adjust their workforce according to their specific needs. I know when I was at university it was the perfect option for me to bring in an income working around the demands of studying. It turns out I’m not the only one.
I received a gift to get pampered at a day spa, and I was speaking with one of their casual workers. She shared how she hadn’t had a weekend off in 7 months…. Wow, 7 months! I couldn’t even imagine. It has been many years since I’ve had to work in any industry that works on the weekend, that I have taken my weekends off for granted.
As she works in the beauty industry, the peak time for business is when most workers are not at work, therefore evenings and weekends. This can be quite difficult, particularly when your partner, family and friends are not on the same work schedule as you and the time that you do have off is when those closest to you are working. This worker also shared her desire to buy a house and that casual work meant that hours weren’t consistent from week to week, therefore not helping her to have a reliable and guaranteed income to achieve this goal.
Unfortunately, for this casual staff member, there appears to be noticeable cons at the present time, however there are a lot of employees where casual work is the ideal situation for them. When I was studying, casual work was perfect to be able to cut my hours right back during assessment time, then increase my hours over the holiday period when I was not studying. This situation was ideal for me and so many other students as well, plus, of course, fitting in with employers.
So… let’s take a step back and take a closer look into the world of casual employment.
Casual Worker Meaning
A casual worker describes a person who:
- Is employed on an hourly basis.
- Is paid through payroll.
- Has an employment contract.
- Is not guaranteed any ongoing employment.
- Can have inconsistent / irregular hours as per the employers needs.
Casual employment is just one type of employment that someone can be employed as and is not considered a permanent employee.
Why Employers Use Casual Employees
In today’s economic climate, when businesses are struggling to survive, many embrace the concept of casual employment to avoid the costs and obligations of hiring permanent staff, primarily full-time employees. Typical costs include annual leave entitlements, personal/sick leave, bereavement leave and other staff costs. Permanent employees (full-time and part-time employees) are considered regular employees as they work regular hours and are employed on an ongoing basis. Casual staff have no guarantee of hours. They can work 40 hours per week one week, then the following have no hours at all. This flexibility for the employer allows them to adjust their workforce according to their needs. Common industries that engage a casual workforce include hospitality, retail, tourism, beauty, arts & entertainment, agriculture, disability, and aged care.
Casual Hourly Rate
As employers engage with their casual employees hourly, it’s important to note that businesses often pay a casual loading. This means that employers are typically paying a higher hourly rate compared to their permanent staff. This is to compensate them for the leave and other benefits they are ineligible for. Casual staff can also receive overtime for hours completed outside their scheduled shift. With permanent employment, public holidays are typically not worked unless agreed. This is not the case with casual employees. They may need to work on public holidays and, in some cases, they will receive additional remuneration, such as a leave loading for doing so, but not always.
How Long Can Someone Be A Casual For?
There is no set limit on how long you can be a casual employee, unless you have a fixed-term contract with a set end date. The fact is, it’s really up to the company and your commitment to them. It all depends on how well you work with others, your skills, and how you do at your job. And if you manage to secure your job for 12 months, or maybe even longer, this could potentially lead to a more permanent role.
Some casuals may have a regular pattern of work and/or may be working with the same employer for a long period of time. Although it may seem like the team member is a permanent fixture of the business, being seen as a long-term casual, they are still not eligible for permanent employment entitlements or benefits. Sometimes, as the business requires, a casual conversion to a full-time employee may be possible. If you’re in Australia, under the National Employment Standards (NES) if the staff member has been engaged for over 12 months in a systematic basis, then they are entitled to a pathway to become a permanent employee. Check out the Fair Work Australian government details for more information on the Modern Award. I will acknowledge however, that there are some industries where casual employment makes up the majority of the workforce’s employment status. Therefore, you may have no opportunity or very limited options to become a permanent staff member.
The Pros & Cons of Casual Employment
As with any employment type, there are pros and cons of casual employment. Let’s explore both the pros and cons further.
The Pros of Casual Employment
Here are the pros of being engaged on a casual basis:
- Flexibility – If you work a regular job, you probably have set hours and a set place of work. Casual employment can be incredibly flexible, allowing for you to have a flexible schedule. This can mean you can time to allow you to do the things you love, whether it’s a hobby, a creative pursuit, sport or other leisure activities. Alternatively, it may mean you can perform other responsibilities as well, whether caring for children/elderly, study, another job, volunteering or other important duties.
- Increase / Decrease Working Hours – casual working arrangements mean you can increase or decrease your hours as agreed with your employer. This allows you to work and generate additional income when you have more time or drop back when you don’t have time. Both scenarios are dependent on when the business needs you. As mentioned, this is incredibly handy for those studying, but so many other life scenarios are applicable here.
- Higher Hourly Rate – with most casuals receiving a casual loading, it means that they are effectively earning more per hour than their permanent counterparts. If leave entitlements and job security isn’t important, then working on a casual basis will allow individuals to earn more in less time.
- Keep Your Skills Sharp – Let’s face it – the workforce today is incredibly competitive. You have to be strong, well-spoken, and fully capable of working with others. When you’re a casual employee, you’ll be able to keep your skills sharp and in tune so that you’re ready for any situation you may come across. This is especially beneficial to people who are looking to switch jobs but need a bit more work experience before they make the leap. Also, future employers will look more favourably to someone who is actively working than someone who has been out of work for some time. Oftentimes, someone who has been unemployed for some time raises questions about what’s wrong with them that no other employer wants to employ them. Keeping active in the workforce is seen as a positive during the job search process.
- Lead to Permanent Employment – When you’re working on a casual contract, there’s always the possibility that it could turn into a more permanent role. Businesses are always looking for talented employees, and if you impress one, you could easily be given a permanent role.
- Mutual Agreement – oftentimes employers and employees can make it a win-win situation for casual employees. Employers who work to cater for the availability and needs of the staff member, with the needs of the business, often create a perfect scenario for all involved to get what they need from the engagement.
- Little Or No Notice Period – As a casual employee, depending on what’s in your contract, you may not have to observe a notice period when you leave. This can be beneficial if you wish to start a new job right away. You don’t have to work a 4 week notice period (which is quite typical) like full-time staff do. This allows you to take advantage of other job opportunities if they arise.
The Cons of Casual Employment
Here are the cons of being engaged on a casual basis:
- Lack Of Steady Income – due to the flexible nature of casual work, it may be difficult to earn a steady and regular income. As hours can fluctuate and there is no obligation from the business to continue to give you any hours, then it can make it tough to have a steady stream of money coming in
- Lack Of Security – As employers have no obligation at all to offer any shifts, then it can make it difficult for casuals to feel secure in their employment. Work can dry up at any moment for any reason, so it can create uncertainly and stress to workers who value job security.
- No Leave Entitlements – as annual, sick and other personal leave is not available, casuals must take unpaid leave if they want to take a holiday, become sick, care of a loved one or attend a funeral. Casuals have the flexibility, but it can be a financial burden not having any leave to cover these times.
- Working Outside Normal Hours – casuals typically get the short end of the stick and have to work outside normal hours. As permanent staff normally work standard business hours, it costs employers a lot more to get their core workforce to do these shifts. Outside normal working hours usually includes public holidays, weekends, evenings, and holiday periods depending on the industry/jobs involved. By working these times, it can impact a worker’s personal life as it takes away time from their loved ones.
- Obligation To Say Yes To Shifts – depending on the business, as a member of a casual pool of workers, you may feel obligated to say yes to shifts. If you start saying no, employers may no longer approach you for work, so you may be left saying yes to shifts that you don’t actually want.
- Little Or No Notice Period – although also a benefit, it can be a major con that if an employer no longer requires your services, then they may not need to provide any notice at all (depending on what’s included in your employment contract). Lack of sufficient notice makes it difficult to plan ahead if your income will be reduced to nothing.
- Loan Approval Issues – As in the case above, financial institutions look at your employment status to ensure that you have a solid job and can pay back any loans. This can make it challenging for casual employees to access funds due to the lack of security.
- First To Be Stood Down – if a business is going through a tough time and needs to reduce their labour costs, casuals are often the first ones to have their hours cut or be stood down. As employers have an obligation to their permanent staff, and they must give them regular work, then casual staff are often the unfortunate consequence of hard times.
Casual Employment – Is It Right For You?
Those are the main pros and cons of casual work. It’s of course important to weigh these up to see if it’s worthwhile in pursuing a casual job. For the right person, casual employment can be a great option. It can help you to earn an income, gain experience and build skills that will stand you in good stead for the future. Plus, it can provide a more flexible work schedule that allows you to get the most out of your personal and professional life. The downside, however, is that it’s not a perfect fit for everyone. You may not be able to always get what you want, and you could feel frustrated at times. But it’s really up to you if this option is right for you. Just make sure you’ve thought it through and know your goals, expectations and what you want from this arrangement.