‘Casual’ & ‘ongoing’ employment: the Australian distinction

Sheltons Group Legal – an Australian law firm based in London

Under recently introduced legislation, ‘casual’ employees in Australia have been granted a right to request the conversion of their employment to an ‘ongoing’ or permanent position – subject to certain criteria. This enables employees to take advantage of more extensive entitlements that have previously only been provided to ‘ongoing’ or permanent employees.

The difference between ‘casual’ & ‘ongoing’ employment

For the first time, casual employment has been specifically defined in Australian employment legislation as: an employee whose employer makes “no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern”.

In Australia, employment on a ‘casual’ basis carries different legal rights for the employee as compared to ‘ongoing’ employment: a term describing both part-time and full-time workers, i.e. those employed on a permanent basis.

A common example of a ‘casual’ employee might be a warehouse worker whose hours are not consistent or defined by a continued ongoing rota or roster. Conversely, an ‘ongoing’ employee might be administration or payroll staff who work the same agreed pattern of hours or days each week, with an expectation of continued work.

Distinguishing whether someone is a casual or ongoing employee can be blurry in some cases and will often depend on the factual circumstances of the arrangements.

Employers are now legally obliged to offer casual employees conversion to an ongoing position.

The measures introduced essentially focus on job security for employees. Where a casual employee has worked a certain period of time for the same employer, the employer must offer a conversion of their employment from casual to ongoing.

Why is the distinction of employees important?

Failure to classify an employee appropriately can leave employers vulnerable to ‘double-dipping’ claims. For example, where an employee who has already been paid casual loading under an agreement for casual employment later seeks compensation for unpaid leave and other entitlements owed to them as if they were a part-time or full-time employee on the basis that their employer had made an incorrect classification.

Incorrect employee classifications can also lead Australian Government regulators to impose penalties against the employer, and fines to backpay unpaid wages can easily bankrupt small businesses. So, if in doubt, now is a good time to assess the classification of employees in your business.

Sheltons Group Legal can assist you in ensuring your business has the ‘casual’ v ‘ongoing’ employment distinction correct and we would be glad to hear from you!

Courtney Gleeson
Sheltons Group Legal (London and Sydney)

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