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What are casual employee rights and entitlements during the pandemic?

A casual employee is defined as a worker who doesn’t have guaranteed work; doesn’t receive payment for annual or sick leave; can end their employment without notice, unless specified in their contract; and generally works irregular hours.

Casual employee entitlements: What are casual employees entitled to during the coronavirus outbreak?

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  • Casual employees are entitled to the JobKeeper payment if they have been regularly employed with the same employer for a 12-month period prior to March 1, 2020
  • Casual empowers are still entitled to turn down shifts and take unpaid leave from work
  • Casual employees are entitled to a higher rate of pay than full-time or part-time employees. This is called “casual loading”. Casual employees receive a higher rate of pay because they do not receive benefits such as paid annual leave or sick leave
  • Casual employees are entitled to two days of paid carers leave, or two days of paid compassionate leave per 12 month period
  • Casual employees are entitled to five days family and domestic leave per 12 month period
  • Casual employees are entitled to unpaid community service leave.

Casual employee rights and entitlements change slightly after a 12-month period. After 12 months of regular employment with one employer, a casual worker can apply for flexible working hours and parental leave. However, a casual employee is still not entitled to a notice period should their contract be terminated, not or they entitled to paid leave.

While it is widely reported that casual employees still have the same rights and entitlements as they did prior to the coronavirus outbreak, there are obvious elements that will make work for casual employers more difficult. For instance:

  • If a casual employee is sick with COVID-19 or otherwise and is unable to work, they will not receive payment for this time off
  • If an employer needs to cut labour force costs, casual employees may be in a vulnerable position via reduced hours or a termination of their contract.

It has been reported that over 700,000 Australians lost their jobs in the first week of April.

If you are a casual employee and you are unsure of your rights and entitlements, you should speak with your employer and ask them if you are eligible for the JobKeeper payment.

If your hours have been reduced, or if you have lost work altogether and you are not eligible for JobKeeper payment, you can apply for the JobSeeker payment, which pays $565.70 per fortnight.

It is a very stressful and frustrating time for most casual employees, however, it is also important to understand your employer’s entitlements moving forward, and these rights may vary from company to company:

  • Employers have the right to terminate your contract with one hour notice if you have been working for them for less than 12 months
  • Employers have the right to not offer you the same regular hours you may have been receiving prior to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Employers have the right to enforce contract guidelines as stated in your contract, unless your contract has been changed and these changes have been agreed by both parties.

Read: Will coronavirus cause a recession in Australia? | The most recent forecasts

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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