Casual employment in Australia: a quick guide

20 Jan 2015

The casualisation of the Australian workforce proceeded at a more or less steady pace from 1992 to 2004.


There is no formal definition of casual employment in the sense that it has a meaning set down in law or specified in awards and agreements. Instead, casual employment has generally been regarded as employment in which there is an absence of entitlement to paid annual leave or sick leave.

The absence of paid leave entitlements was first adopted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as a proxy measure of casual employment in 1988. While this approach can be justified on the grounds that most persons on a casual contract receive a pay loading in lieu of paid annual leave and sick leave, the problem is there is no necessary correlation between type of employment contract and qualifications for these entitlements. The ABS has since dropped the term ‘casual’ and now simply distinguishes between employees with paid leave entitlements and those without.

While the ABS also collects information for a category of worker it describes as ‘self-identified casual’, this quick guide maintains the proxy measure that a casual employee is an employee without paid leave entitlements. It should be noted, however, that owner managers of incorporated enterprises (OMIEs) are excluded from the scope of the definition of casual employee. There is no sense in which OMIEs can reasonably be regarded as casual employees and, even though the ABS has tended to treat OMIEs as employees of their own business, it is possibly for this reason that from 2007 the ABS ceased to ask OMIEs if they gave themselves paid leave.

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