Career Development

What Is the Difference Between Casual and Part-Time Work?

January 27, 2021

If you feel a full-time job is not right for you, you have two main options: accept a casual role or work part-time. Understanding the differences between these employment types will help you choose what is best for you. Accepting a casual or part-time position will affect your schedule, wages, benefits and more. In this article, we will discuss the key differences between casual and part-time work to help you choose the right arrangement for you.

What are the basic differences between casual and part-time work?

The main differences between part-time and casual employees are their hours and their rights. Part-time employees have the same rights as full-time employees but work fewer hours. Like part-time employees, casual employees typically work less than full-time hours, but they have different rules regulating things like time off. Part-time employees have a contracted ongoing relationship with their employers, and the law typically views each casual shift as a new, separate employment contract. That is changing, though, with some new exemptions protecting long-term casual employees.

Read more: The Essential Guide to Working Part-Time Hours

Types of casual and part-time jobs

Casual and part-time work is available in almost every industry. Any job that requires less than full-time hours may be offered as a casual or part-time position. There are also casual and part-time jobs supporting full-time employees in the same role. Some of the most common casual and part-time jobs are:

  • Waiter
  • Barista
  • Bartender
  • Receptionist
  • Checkout assistant
  • Shop assistant
  • Bookkeeper
  • Nurse

Read more: 20 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Well

Other differences between casual and part-time

Casual workers' rights are usually different from part-time employees'. These distinctions are typically reflected in:

Hours

Part-time employees work a set number of hours per week, while the hours casual employees work vary. A part-time employee's weekly hours are fewer than the 38 hours a full-time employee works in a week. The exact number of part-time hours vary between roles – as each part-time position depends on the employer's needs – but they're always consistent from week to week.

Part-time employees agree to a fixed number of hours when signing their contracts. Once they sign, employers can only reduce or increase their hours by mutual agreement. Any changes require a new contract.

Casual employees also work mutually agreed hours, but these usually vary from week to week. This number is often less than full-time hours, but may be more during peak periods. During some weeks, casual employees may record no work hours at all. Usually, employers tell casual employees how many hours they would like them to work each week and when those hours are. Employers also assume casual employees will work their rostered hours unless they're informed otherwise.

Schedules

Part-time employees often have regular fixed schedules, while the schedules of casual employees change frequently. For example, a part-time checkout assistant might always work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. Depending on their workplace and personal engagements, they may be able to swap shifts with other employees. However, employers should approve all swaps before the affected shifts.

The schedules of casual employees tend to change from week to week. Employers assign shifts to casual employees using a roster system that reflects the company's current needs, although these employees can decline any allocated shifts with sufficient notice. Most employers require at least a week's notice of any roster changes.

Some businesses use variable roster systems for part-time employees, too. Variable rosters are common in retail and healthcare. In these cases, part-time employees still work the same number of hours, even if the times and days they work vary.

Wages

The hourly rate of casual employees is at least 25% more than part-time employees in a similar position. This higher rate is called casual loading. Casual loading makes up for the extra benefits part-time employees enjoy, including paid leave and job security.

Part-time employees earn the same pro-rata salary as their full-time counterpart. They can count on a steady salary even when their companies close for public holidays. Also, part-time employees usually work reasonable overtime without extra pay. However, those in jobs with hourly wages, such as shop assistants, may receive overtime pay.

Casual employees always receive an hourly wage. Because of this, they receive extra pay for any hours they work outside their rostered shifts. Also, casual employees are only paid for public holidays if they work them.

Benefits and entitlements

Part-time and casual employees both get the same superannuation benefits, but their leave entitlements vary. Businesses pay superannuation contributions of 9.5% of any employee's standard earnings if they have a gross monthly income of $450 or more and are either:

  • Over 18, or
  • Under 18 and work more than 30 hours a week

This rule applies to all eligible employees whether they work full-time, part-time or casual. Businesses make these payments into nominated superannuation accounts at least every three months.

Part-time employees receive the pro-rata equivalent of full-time employee leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act. These annual entitlements are:

  • Four weeks of paid annual leave
  • 10 days of paid sick, personal or carers leave
  • Two days of paid compassionate leave
  • Five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave per year
  • Unlimited unpaid community service leave

For example, a part-time employee working 19 hours a week – half the standard full-time hours – would receive two weeks' paid annual leave, five days' paid sick leave and a day of paid compassionate leave. Some businesses also offer their part-time employees paid family and domestic violence leave as well as community service leave. A part-time employee's employment contract would list these additional perks.

Leave is usually unpaid for casual employees. However, they can take leave for travelling and recovering from illnesses whenever their employer agrees. They also receive:

  • Two days of unpaid carer's leave per occasion
  • Two days of unpaid compassionate leave per occasion
  • Five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave per year
  • Unlimited unpaid community service leave

Part-time and casual workers may both qualify for up to 18 weeks of Parental Leave Pay. This paid leave is available to anyone working for the same employer for 12 months or more before giving birth or adopting a child. Parents must use the first 12 weeks at once within 12 months of the birth or adoption. The remaining six weeks' leave is available as needed once the parent returns to work. Some employers agree to shorter days or fewer shifts during this period.

Flexibility

Casuals can request as much leave as they want at any time, making them more flexible than part-time employees. In contrast, part-time employees must consult their employer before submitting leave requests. They are also entitled to only the amount of leave prescribed by the Fair Work Act. Businesses expect part-time employees will work all allocated shifts, but casual employees can decline any rostered shifts with sufficient notice.

Dismissal procedures

Unlike casual employees, part-time employees receive notice on termination. This means they can keep working and getting paid after termination for a set notice period or receive the equivalent pay for the period. Casual employees are usually dismissed immediately without compensation. In addition, part-time employees may receive a redundancy payout from their employers. This sum helps part-time employees pay their bills while they are looking for work.

Those working part-time also have greater protection from unfair dismissal than many people classified as casual. Discrimination law protects employees from being unfairly fired or forced to resign due to their employer's biases. With this law, companies cannot dismiss their employees based on the following:

  • Gender identity
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Sexuality
  • Marital status

The Fair Work Act protects part-time employees from unfair dismissal after six months of employment. It also protects casual employees who can show they could reasonably expect continued employment. Casual employees can file an unfair dismissal claim after working:

  • Six months in the same job, in most cases
  • 12 months in the same job if their employer has fewer than 15 regular employees

What should you consider before accepting a casual or part-time position?

Consider whether you value flexibility or security more before accepting a casual or part-time role. If you have regular bills, a part-time job may suit you best. When you work part-time, you know you can count on a steady income to meet your financial commitments. If you live with your family or have substantial savings, then the flexibility of a casual job may be more appealing.

Think about your future plans and your life right now. Financial institutions usually lend money to people with regular, stable earnings. Most will favour part-time employees over people with casual jobs. If you plan on getting a mortgage or personal loan, you may prefer part-time work.

You could also transition from a casual role to a part-time one. This often happens when people gain more experience and become more valuable to their companies. Employee awards and agreements also state casual employees in regular work can request part-time work after a set period, which varies between jobs but is often six or 12 months. Employers must have reasonable grounds for refusing a request for part-time employment.

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