What is casual employment? A guide to work hours and entitlements

what is casual employment and what is a casual employee

What does casual employment mean?

In Australia, casual employment refers to a specific type of work arrangement with distinct characteristics outlined by the Fair Work Act 2009. The core aspect of casual employment is the lack of a guaranteed ongoing role with set hours. The offer of employment and the employee’s acceptance are based on the understanding that you have no firm commitment to provide ongoing work with a regular pattern of hours.

Sometimes, the line between casual and permanent employment can be blurred, especially if a casual employee works regular hours for an extended period. Under certain circumstances, casual employees may be eligible for “casual conversion” to a permanent role with set hours and benefits.

What is a casual employee?

Someone is considered a casual employee if their work arrangement meets the criteria of casual employment. Casual employees typically work irregular hours that may vary from week to week, depending on your business’s needs. There’s no guarantee of a minimum number of hours.

Casual employees generally receive a higher hourly rate compared to full-time or part-time employees, but they typically don’t receive benefits like paid leave (annual leave, sick leave, etc.) or superannuation contributions (contributions made towards an employee’s retirement savings).

Employer responsibilities to casual employees

In several cases, casual employees are entitled to the same minimum employee rights as full-timers and part-timers. Casual employees are still covered by all applicable Fair Work laws, including those related to discrimination, unfair dismissal, and minimum standards for working conditions.

For specific differences applicable to casuals, below are the key employer responsibilities to casual employees based on the Fair Work Act 2009.

Fair Work Information Statement (FWIS)

new employees, including casuals, must be provided with the FWIS upon commencement of employment. This document outlines their basic workplace rights and entitlements.

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Casual Employment Information Statement (CEIS)

Employers are required to provide casual employees with a CEIS before or soon after they start working. This statement details the core characteristics of casual employment and the employee’s rights.

Minimum pay

Casual employees must be paid at least the minimum hourly rate set by the relevant award or the Fair Work regulations. They must also be paid their wages on or before the ordinary payday as defined in the relevant award or the National Employment Standards (NES).

Casual loading

Instead of paid leave entitlements, casual employees are entitled to a higher hourly rate than full-time or part-time employees. The specific casual loading amount can vary depending on the award or registered agreement that applies to the industry or occupation.

Unpaid leave

While not entitled to paid leave, casual employees can take unpaid leave under certain circumstances:

  • 2 days of Carer’s Leave per occasion: To provide care or support to a family member or close friend with a medical condition, terminal illness, or disability.
  • 2 days of Compassionate Leave per occasion: To deal with the death, illness, injury, or unexpected crisis of a family member or close friend.

Notice of unemployment

Casual employees typically don’t have the same notice period requirements for termination as full-time or part-time employees. The required notice period will depend on their employment contract or award terms.

Tips to effectively manage casual employees

Check out these tips to help you effectively manage casual employees and create a positive work environment for both parties:

Provide casual employment contracts

Consider having casual employees sign a clear and concise contract outlining the terms and conditions of their employment, including casual employment characteristics and hourly rate. This will help you set clear expectations from the outset regarding job duties, scheduling, pay rates, and casual employment characteristics (no guaranteed hours, limited benefits).

Foster open communication

Maintain open communication channels with your casual employees. Encourage them to ask questions and provide feedback. Keep casual employees informed about upcoming schedules, workload changes, and any relevant company news. A timesheet app can easily help you set shifts based on your roster and send it to employees for acceptance in the same workflow.

Offer flexible and predictable schedules

Offer flexible scheduling options to accommodate your casual workforce’s needs and other commitments. As much as possible, provide schedules with reasonable notice to allow casual employees to plan their personal lives. Consider using workforce management software to streamline scheduling and allow employees to swap shifts or submit requests for time off.

Give proper recognition

Recognise and appreciate the contributions of your casual staff. A simple thank you, or a small token of appreciation can go a long way in boosting your employees’ morale. Consider offering occasional training or development opportunities to casual employees who show potential and interest in growing within the company.

Maintain accurate payroll records

Maintain accurate payroll records of hours worked and payments made to casual employees. Provide casual employees with clear and accurate payslips that detail their earnings, deductions, and casual loading calculations. To ensure the integrity of financial records, pay casual employees through the same payroll process as other workers. 

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minimum and maximum casual employee hours

What to include in a casual employment agreement contract

A casual employment agreement contract should clearly outline the terms and conditions of the casual employment arrangement. It should ensure that both you and the employee understand their rights and responsibilities.

Here are the key elements to include:

Employee and employer information

  • Employee Name and Contact Information
  • Employer Name and Business Information (ABN)
  • Commencement Date

Terms of employment

  • Casual Employment: Clearly state that the position is casual employment, outlining the key characteristics:
    • No guaranteed ongoing work or set hours.
    • Hours of work may vary depending on business needs.
    • Limited or no paid leave entitlements (specify any exceptions like unpaid carer’s leave).
  • Job Duties and Responsibilities: Provide a clear description of the employee’s duties and responsibilities.
  • Award/Registered Agreement: Specify the relevant award or registered agreement that applies to the industry or occupation, determining minimum pay rates and other conditions.

Pay and leave conditions

  • Casual Loading Rate: Outline the hourly rate, including casual loading, in accordance with the relevant award or agreement.
  • Payment Methods and Frequency: Specify how the employee will be paid (e.g., bank transfer) and how often (e.g., weekly, fortnightly).
  • Superannuation: While casual employees generally don’t qualify for employer super contributions, you can clarify this point in the agreement.
  • Unpaid Leave Entitlements: If applicable, mention any unpaid leave entitlements the employee may have (e.g., carer’s leave, compassionate leave).


  • Notice Period: Outline the required notice period for termination, considering any requirements set out in the relevant award or agreement. In most cases, the notice period for casual employment is minimal.
  • Termination Rights: Both the employer and the employee have the right to terminate the employment at any time with the required notice period (or payment in lieu of notice).

Confidentiality (optional)

  • You can include a confidentiality clause if the employee will have access to sensitive information.


  • Include a designated space for both the employer and the employee to sign and date the agreement, acknowledging their understanding and acceptance of the terms and conditions.

Stay compliant with rules and regulations for casual employees

Casual employment offers a flexible and adaptable workforce solution for many Australian businesses. Navigate its Fair Work compliance requirements correctly, and you’re sure to reap the benefits. You can foster a reliable casual workforce by understanding casuals’ minimum rights and entitlements and managing their communication and scheduling.

For a seamless onboarding experience for casual employees, use a timesheets and rostering app along with the rest of your team. With Payroller’s employee scheduling software, you can set and manage schedules, leaves, payroll, and more on the go. Your employees will get access to an Employee mobile app that they can use to track their work hours, accept shifted hours, and communicate with you.

Remember, adhering to Fair Work regulations is not just a legal requirement, it’s the foundation for building trust and loyalty with your casual staff. Utilise the resources provided, stay informed of any updates to workplace laws,  and consider seeking professional guidance for complex situations.

Frequently asked questions about casual employment and employees

Australia has no federally mandated minimum number of hours for casual employees per shift. The minimum hours can vary depending on applicable industry awards or agreements between the employer and the employee, but they cannot be less than what’s outlined in the award.

In general, practice, even if you roster a casual employee for a short shift (e.g., 2 hours), you might be obligated to pay them for a minimum number of hours as defined by the award or the agreement. This is to compensate for travel time and other considerations.

No, casual employees typically don’t qualify for overtime pay simply for working more than 38 hours per week unless specified by a relevant industry award. Casual employment is specifically designed for irregular hours and doesn’t guarantee a set number of hours per week.

Some awards or registered agreements that govern specific industries might have clauses outlining overtime pay for casual employees who work beyond a certain number of hours per day, week, or fortnight.  Check the relevant award for any such provisions.

If a casual employee works significantly more than what’s considered “reasonable” for their casual role, they might be entitled to overtime pay under the “reasonable work hours” clause of the Fair Work Act. This is a complex area and may involve individual circumstances.

There’s no strict legal time limit on how long someone can be classified as a casual employee. Under certain circumstances, a casual employee may be eligible for “casual conversion” to a permanent role. This happens if their work arrangement starts to resemble a permanent role, even though they’re technically classified as casual.

Different factors may trigger casual conversion, but it is wholly at the discretion of the employer.

The rules around superannuation (super) for casual employees can be a bit complex. Generally, casual employees are only entitled to superannuation if they are under 18 and work more than 30 hours per week for their employer. In this case, they would be entitled to super on all their earnings.

There is no current minimum earning threshold for casual employees over 18 to be eligible for super. This means casual employees over 18 generally don’t qualify for super, regardless of the number of hours worked.

Yes, casual employees generally do get penalty rates for working certain hours or days. This is because casual loading, which they receive in lieu of paid leave entitlements, doesn’t account for potential overtime or irregular work hours. Many awards or agreements also provide penalty rates for casual employees who work outside their normal spread of hours, including evenings (typically after 6 pm on weekdays) and nights.

Casuals are entitled to a higher hourly rate for ordinary hours worked on weekends and public holidays compared to the standard hourly rate. The specific percentage increase can vary depending on the relevant award or registered agreement that applies to the industry or occupation.

No, casual employees are not entitled to receive allowances in the same way that full-time or part-time employees might. Allowances typically cover specific work-related expenses like travel, meals, uniforms, or tools. Since casual work is often temporary or short-term, there’s less need for ongoing expense reimbursements. Still, an employer may offer casual employees certain allowances at their discretion.

Some awards or registered agreements governing specific industries might have clauses outlining specific allowances for casual employees. These could be for meals or travel expenses incurred due to the nature of the work. It’s crucial to check the relevant award for any such provisions.

Yes, casual employees have the right to refuse shifts without facing any consequences from their employers as long as they provide reasonable notice (depending on the circumstances). Unlike full-time or part-time employees, casuals don’t have a guaranteed number of hours or a set work schedule, so the employer can’t penalise them for refusing a shift.

While casual employees can refuse shifts, consistently refusing all or most offered shifts could jeopardise their casual employment status. If an employer can demonstrate a pattern of unreasonable refusals, it might impact the casual classification.

Yes, casual employees can generally be terminated without notice from their employer, and vice versa. This aligns with the casual employment model’s core principle of flexibility and irregular work patterns.

The casual classification hinges on the absence of both parties’ advance commitment. Employers don’t commit to providing ongoing work, and casual employees don’t commit to accepting every offered shift.

Casual employees can still be protected from unfair dismissal under certain circumstances. This might occur if the termination is discriminatory or in retaliation for exercising workplace rights.

Casual employees and contractual employees in Australia represent two distinct types of work arrangements. While both offer flexibility compared to full-time or part-time roles, they differ significantly in terms of structure, entitlements, and expectations.

In essence, casual employment is suited for ongoing but irregular work needs, while contractual employment is ideal for well-defined projects with a clear start and end date. For more information, see our article on contractor vs. employee differences.

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