Casual Workers – Not so Casual on Entitlements

We all know the babysitter who occasionally accepts $60 and pizza for watching Foxtel whilst your kids sleep soundly in bed and you enjoy a night on the town. In truth, these babysitters fare better than some casual workers in Australia.

Why is that? Casual workers represent a vulnerable part of our society who are often unaware of their basic employment rights which exist simply by being employed under Australian law.

The most recent example of employers taking advantage of casual workers was seen in the underpayment of 7-Eleven workers. The 7-Eleven workers were subject to an illegal pay-back scheme where they got paid the award of $24.50 an hour, were forced to pay back half or more and if they complained, the boss threatened them with deportation. Following a Senate inquiry, 7-Eleven has back-paid millions of dollars to its victims, some of whom were paid as little as $10 an hour.

If you are a casual worker or you employ casual staff, the below cheat sheet should give you vital information as to casual workers’ rights.

  • If the worker is over 18 and gets paid $450 or more per month; or under 18 and works more than 30 hours per week, superannuation contributions must be paid.
  • A shift must be for at least 3 hours and if longer than 5 hours, a 30 minute break is usually required.
  • Depending on the Enterprise Agreement or Award, a minimum period of advance notice for shifts may apply.
  • Casual employees are entitled to unpaid sick leave, annual leave, carer’s, compassionate and community service leave. Any penalisation for taking such leave is illegal.
  • The legal minimum wage for workers over 18 is $17.29 per hour, plus a minimum 25% loading. No ifs or buts.
  • If an employee works for a business with over 15 employees and has been employed for over 6 months, they must be given a warning and time to improve their performance before being fired.
  • If an employee works for a business with less than 15 employees and has been employed for over 12 months, a warning and time to improve their performance must be given before being fired.

The 7-Eleven employment breaches seem obvious to a reasonable person. The above rights are less obvious but just as enforceable. That’s the law on casual employment.

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