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Employing staff can be like a new romance

Employing casual staff is a great way for the small business owner to get the help they need, when they need it, without committing to ongoing wage costs. Just like a romance it can be like a rollercoaster!

Employment Agreements
Casual Employment is like a new romance - you don't know when or if you will see each other again!

When you first meet someone and start dating, you don’t know when or if you will see each other again - just like the relationship you have with a casual employee.

If things go well, you start spending more time together. Friday night becomes a standing date; you have regular lunches and always hang out on a Sunday afternoon. The relationship is more predictable with a level of commitment similar to that of a part time employee.

It is vitally important for the business owner to fully understand the differences between employing someone on a casual or part time basis. You don’t want to learn the hard way by being hauled before the Fair Work Tribunal for getting it wrong.

If you employ casuals - take a moment to think about your relationship with them?

Are their hours unpredictable or are they coming in the same days each week and working set hours with no end in sight?

Determining if an employment relationship is casual or part time can be very confusing because the Fair Work Act does not provide a clear definition for the term casual employee.

We contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman to obtain clarification or a definitive test but sadly they could not provide one.

They state the following on their website:

“Casual employees are paid based on the number of hours they work. They usually aren’t guaranteed a certain amount of hours of work per week, but can work regular hours.” (see the page)

Then they contradict themselves and say on a different page:

“Casual employees are usually employed by the hour or by the day. They usually don’t get paid sick leave or annual leave. To make up for this they get extra pay called a casual loading. Casual workers are less likely to have regular or guaranteed hours of work.” (see the page)

The confusion stems from the fact “there is scope under the Fair Work Act 2009 for casuals to work regular hours and still be considered casuals. However, some awards may exclude this from occurring in certain industries and occupations.”

Are you lost yet? We certainly were until they said to us during a chat session.

“Whether someone is employed on a casual or part-time basis depends on what was agreed between the parties at the beginning of employment”.

Now, this is a very important nugget of information that will save you untold hassles as an employer if you take it to heart.

These are the steps you can take if you are thinking of employing a casual (or any employee)

  1. Firstly - Check the Modern Award that applies to your industry (either online or on the phone Fair Work 131314) as it will set out the conditions upon which an employee is considered casual or not.
  2. Keep a record of the arrangement you make with the employee. Now while the law only requires you to record the mode of employment in the employee's records, it is much safer to demonstrate that both parties have agreed to the terms by defining the relationship in a written contract.

    Putting your employment agreement in writing ensures that you have a rock solid record of the arrangement you are making with your employee, preventing future misunderstandings and disputes.
  3. Finally, if you are in a position where a casual employee is becoming a regular staff member then it may be prudent to review the situation and explore other options such as moving them to a part time contract for a fixed period of time.

Need help putting a Casual Employment contract in place Go here

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