SHOP LOCAL: Hiring Christmas staff

SHOP LOCAL: Hiring Christmas staff

It’s that time of the year when a lot of businesses will be hiring extra workers to cover the busy holiday period.

A quick search for ‘Christmas casuals’ on a popular job seeking website promptly delivered dozens of vacancies in the Perth metropolitan area.

The employment is usually for a short period and employees are typically hired on a casual basis.

As an employer, it is important to understand your obligations to employees and what needs to be considered when hiring Christmas casual employees.

Although there’s no consistent definition of casual in Australia’s employment legislation, it’s generally assumed to mean someone who works as required by their employer.

This means casual employees aren’t guaranteed regular hours or ongoing employment, and are instead retained on an ‘as needs’ basis.

Generally, a casual employee is regarded as someone who:

  • doesn’t have weekly guaranteed hours
  • usually works irregular hours
  • doesn’t receive sick leave or annual leave.

Employers of casual staff are generally not required to give a minimum period of notice prior to termination, unless specified in the relevant award.

This lack of job security and entitlements is offset by casuals being entitled to a higher rate of pay.

Importantly, a casual employee can change to full-time or part-time employment at any time if the employer offers it, and the employee agrees.

Some awards include casual conversion clauses where employees can apply to be converted from casual to permanent employment.

After 12 months of regular and systematic employment, and if there’s a reasonable expectation that this will continue, a long term casual employee can also request flexible working arrangements and take parental leave.

Casuals are a vital addition to the workforce, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas, and while they miss out on benefits available to full-time and part-time employees, there are rights that employers must adhere to for their casual staff.

Young people, who comprise a large portion of the casual workforce, are hugely overrepresented in workplace injury stats, and this is exacerbated by the negligence of bosses who refuse to properly train their temporary staff.

Casuals should be taught health and safety policies and procedures and how to use any equipment or machinery they are required to use.

Unpaid trial periods are illegal.

Casuals must be paid for the entire employment period and for any set-up or pack-up time at the start or end of their shift.

A contract should be signed by the employer and employee, and regular pay slips presented that document the hours worked and rate of pay.

The Small Business Development Corporation website has comprehensive information on employing staff, including casual workers, at smallbusiness.wa.gov.au/business-advice/employing-staff or call 133 140.