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Casual employees: what are they good for?

February 25, 2016


Absolutely everything, if you’re asking Australian retailer Myer. The retail giant has recently taken on more casual employees so it can meet increased shopper demand and improve customer service.

Late last year the department store onboarded 3,000 Christmas casuals, and has retained a record number of these casuals (around 2,250) in a push to improve the overall in-store experience.

By analysing sales data in each department to identify the peaks and troughs in trade, the retailer cut staff hours in quiet periods and shifted their focus to weekends, nights and lunchtime rushes.

Myer started its overhaul in mid-2015, by offering voluntary redundancies because the ratio of permanent staff was as high as 90 percent at some Myer stores, providing for a rigid workforce.

The benefits of a casual workforce

Whether you’re a small or larger business, engaging a casual workforce could work wonders for you. Casual employees are engaged on an as-needs-basis, and can help increase flexibility in your workplace. Engaging employees on a casual basis gives you the ability to increase staffing levels during your busiest months, whilst providing you the ability to reduce wages when times are tough.

The casualization of the Australian workforce also provides obvious benefits for employees. Under the relevant award or agreement, casual employees are entitled to a higher base rate of pay to compensate them for not accruing certain entitlements such as annual leave or personal leave. Casual work also allows employees to obtain a better ‘work-life balance’, with more and more Australian workers now balancing family responsibilities, part-time study and freelance work with their casual status.

What do I need to do?

It’s important that you have well-drafted casual employment contracts in place, and that they clearly indicate that the casual is to be paid a casual loading and has no access to annual leave, personal leave, or redundancy entitlements.

You must remember that in most instances, casual employees shouldn’t be working set rosters for an ongoing period. Issues can arise when some casuals are working full-time equivalent hours, and working the same regular shifts for a long period of time. If this is the case, some casual employees may push back and claim that they were in fact misclassified and treated as part-time of full-time employees, and therefore have access to annual leave, personal leave or redundancy entitlements.

However, a simple rule can be followed in most circumstances – if the employee looks like a casual, acts like a casual and is paid like a casual, it’s likely that they will be deemed a genuine casual employee.

In our current economic climate, if you want a workforce that is able to respond to your ever changing business needs and provide greater flexibility in your workplace, maybe it’s time to start thinking about casual employees.

For more information on casual employees and what this means for you, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.