It is well known that casual employees are essential to the success of farming businesses, particularly for seasonal work.  However, it is also well known that Australian employment legislation can be difficult to understand and comply with.  In our experience many farmers do not fully understand their obligations as employers of casual employees.  This guide is intended to provide guidance on the key areas of employing casuals.  

What is a casual employee?

Casual employees usually:  

  • work a non-regular pattern of hours
  • work for a discrete period of time e.g. harvest and seeding
  • get paid for each hour they work including overtime hours and penalties
  • are paid a casual loading in lieu of receiving paid leave entitlements

What is a long-term casual employee?

A long-term casual employee is one that has worked for at least 12 months on a regular and systematic basis and the role being performed could be deemed to be a permanent role. 

Can a casual employee convert to permanent employment status?

A long-term casual employee can request to have their contract of employment converted to permanent full time or part time. It is important to note that it is the employer’s responsibility to bring this to the attention of the employee.  Also, the employer can refuse the request on reasonable business grounds.  Likewise, the employee may wish to continue working as a casual.  We recommend that any agreement is put in writing, e.g. Employment contract

What should casual employees get paid?

Casuals terms and conditions of employment are dictated by the relevant Industrial Instrument (the Award).  Each Award contains position classifications with corresponding pay rates.  The Award will also detail additional entitlements e.g. overtime, penalty rates and allowances.

A common misconception is that if casual employees are paid a flat hourly rate which is more than the Award rate, they don’t have to be paid applicable Award overtime and penalty rates. However, this is not the case and an Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA) should be used with the employment contract to show what entitlements are included in the higher hourly rate.  The higher hourly rate which is paid must result in the employee not being disadvantaged.   That is, the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) is satisfied.

Also, it is important to be aware that the Award may dictate a minimum number of hours of work which the employee must be paid on each occasion they attend work, regardless of whether the hours are worked or not.

What paperwork is required when employing casual employees?

When employing a casual make sure:

  • The employee has the right to work in Australia (correct and current visa)
  • They have a casual employee employment contract
  • They are given a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement
  • If an employee is covered by the Pastoral Award and is being paid an hourly rate that is high enough to include allowances, overtime and penalty rates, they must be provided with an Individual Flexibility agreement.
  • Employee Details Form is completed which captures all important information about the employee e.g. bank details, next of kin
  • The employee provides a completed Superannuation Choice Form and Tax File Number Declaration Form.
  • The employee must be provided with a detailed payslip within one working day of wages being paid.  It should include information on all the entitlements paid e.g. loading, penalty rates, overtime hours worked, superannuation.  It should also include details of any deductions that have been made.

Do probation periods apply to casual employees?

Due to the nature of casual employment, probation periods do not apply. 

What records need to be kept for casual employees?

The time and wages records for casual employees need to be kept for at least seven years.  This information can be easily collected when time-sheets are completed by the employee.

Are casual employees entitled to leave?

Whilst casuals are not entitled to paid annual and personal (Sick and Carers) leave, they are entitled to the following unpaid leave:

  • Carers Leave
  • Family and Domestic violence leave
  • Compassionate (Bereavement leave)
  • Parental Leave
  • Community Service leave

Long term casuals are also entitled to paid Long Service Leave.

Does workers compensation apply to casual employees?

Casual employees have the same protection for workplace injury and illness as permanent employees under the Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act.   Make sure all your casual employees are covered by your Workers Compensation Insurance Policy.

How is casual employment terminated?

The employment of a casual employee can be ended by the giving of as little as one hours notice.  However, where the casual employee has been employed on a regular and systematic basis for more than a year, then the employer is required to follow the same process as if the employee was permanent due to the employee having access to unfair dismissal.

Need advice for employing casuals, or any other human resource matters, contact ProcessWorx


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