Casual employees account for over 20 percent of the workforce in Australia — that's approximately 2.5 million people. However, these jobs are not only more at risk of being terminated — casual staff represented 72 percent of all jobs lost across the labour market during the 2021 lockdowns — but research also suggests that some casual workers in Australia earn roughly $350 less each week than their permanent counterparts.
On Reddit, Australian casual workers have been increasingly sharing their concerns of their job demands, with user u/ghost_gurrl writing: "My first casual job doesn’t feel very casual?"
"This is my first job and I’ve been here nine months as casual. The thing is, I thought casuals could turn down shifts without reason. I let my boss know I couldn’t come in (due to floods) and was told to come anyway because there is nobody to cover (we are really understaffed). I also got told when I called in sick that I couldn’t take any more time off until after Christmas because it’s getting very busy. I struggle with mental illness and it’s getting too much for me. Is this normal for a casual job?"
In another, user u/cpolish, shared a similar sentiment, asking: "My casual retail job wants to force me to work more days or I'll be terminated. What should I do?"
"The other day, I received an email from my employer stating that my availabilities for the next month — which I had submitted two weeks in advance — were 'unsatisfactory for the business needs', as apparently they now seem to require a minimum of three days per week of availabilities. If I could not provide a revised availability schedule meeting this, my employment 'may be at risk'."
And in yet another Reddit discussion I stumbled upon, user u/weednumberhaha, asked: "Does anybody else find casual/intermittent shift work kind of fucked?"
"Like for me personally, I just don't know if I'm going to get shifts or if they'll be cancelled on the morning I'm scheduled for. Anybody else feeling the strain a little?"
Across the varied discussions, Aussies came out in support of casual staff — condemning the treatment of these workers and sharing their own stories of being manipulated, mistreated and silenced from speaking up.
1. "I've worked full-time hours as a casual employee since I was eighteen, and I've not had a holiday since. I was thirty before I found a position on a permanent contract instead of a casual one. Thirty before finding a company who pays proper penalty rates and allows sick leave and annual leave. It's atrocious — this country serves the employer and bends the employee over the barrel every chance it gets."
2. "I'm so fucking tired of every job being through third-party agencies that put you on 'casual loading' only to discover you're getting paid the same amount as the full-timers, yet you don't receive any sick pay, annual leave, or any other benefits. On top of that, the 'casual loading' is taken away if you do any overtime, so your time and a half rate comes to like $6 more than your regular pay rate."
"I thought the point of casual employment was to pay people more for insecure/part time hours? How the fuck did so many industries normalise casual employment at full time hours for months, if not years at a time?
You get so many people complaining that 'nobody wants to work'. The reality is that nobody has any loyalty to a casualised system that openly exploits them and profits off the monopoly that there are no other opportunities available."
3. "I'd be fine with casualised employment simply getting the same leave entitlements as full time staff. For every hour you work, you should accrue X amount of time as leave. I don't understand why this is different between full time and casual, when so many businesses hire people as casuals, but give them full time hours anyway. Casual employment might have its place, but it's certainly not for employees working 35 hours or more."
4. "Casuals are used to give a business lots of flexibility for seasonal demand, but there needs to be a balance between the number of casuals on the books and the hours on offer. If the business determines that they have more people than they need and they have enough flexibility if they drop the staff who are doing the fewest shifts, that's a good place to start."
5. "Casual staff need a cap on the hours worked, just like part time work. That's the whole bloody point of it. Not to mention, casual workers need more rights to be free from retaliation when they refuse a shift. None of this 'lowering hours' or being fired bullshit either."
6. "If you are employed for about a year under the kinds of hours that would be expected for a permanent employee, you could be protected by additional laws. Would be worth checking out for anyone in these circumstances."
7. "Casual employment is the 'cake and eat it' effect. You are put on as a casual, so your employer doesn't have to offer you work if they don't feel like it. Nevertheless, they require you to immediately work when they do feel like it. This is really crappy. There are three approaches:"
"1. Roll with it and do what they ask. You'll make some money.
2. Just say no to shifts you don't want to do, accepting the risk that they might never offer you work again. You may find that they are desperate and will roll with you.
3. Speak to them and say that if they want to take this approach then you should be made permanent part time or permanent full time, or fixed-term full time.
Having casual employees works pretty well for some situations, but it is no substitute for permanent full/part time."
8. "The real hot tip is to check the award that you are being paid under and read the national employment standard. If you start experiencing issues which fall afoul of these, you're being taken advantage of. If you are part or full time there is a very good chance you should be paid overtime if you're working outside of rostered hours. Simple as that."
"Once upon a time, under our state-based award, if you called up a casual employee without minimum notice periods that would also be considered overtime, like a part time employee being called in on their day off, although that seems to have been watered down in the harmonisation of awards.
I don’t miss getting a phone call at 8am in the morning to drop everything and show up at work with the vague undertone of threat that if you didn’t show up you would stop getting hours, because that should not be normal."
9. "Welcome to casual employment in Australia. You are 100% going to be abused and manipulated — this is normal. They will coerce you into breaking yourself for them only to turn around and say 'You're casual, I don't owe you anything, you get what you're given, if you won't do it, I'll find somebody who will'. Prioritise what you deem most important and focus on yourself. Take what shifts are suitable for you."
10. "I worked as a casual for a place and gave a two week notice, thinking I was doing the right thing. They stripped my shifts within about an hour. There goes like $2000 I was expecting to have to help me move cities that I didn’t get. Lesson: Don’t give notice as a casual."
11. "When I was 18, I went down to NSW to stay with family and took the first job I could until I found something better, (it was an abusive family business, with the young daughter as manager). Sent the boss a text at 10pm that I'm planning on leaving NSW tonight, so I won't be in for my shift at 7am or ever again (their whole family had flights booked for three weeks in Bali to leave that day). Felt like I was doing god's work."
12. "Never seen a casual job where you didn't get punished with less, worse or no more shifts if you ever call in sick; aren't free when they want you in with no notice; try and block out time to not be scheduled on; or try to reject a shift without calling up other casuals until you find one who can cover. People on salaries at full time work can get paid leave approved more easily than casuals can decline a shift."
13. "Literally yesterday, helped patch up a casual worker and get him to hospital because he was bleeding heavily. Could hear some of his discussion with his employer. The boss didn’t want him to leave the company truck, so he [the injured guy] wanted to drive alone, but I was worried he’d faint. The amount of pressure on him was unreal. And this was a sudden emergency, not 'I have a bad cold'."
14. "To account for zero time off, sick leave, public holidays and superannuation, casual workers should be paid TWICE what salaried employees earn. It's as simple as that."
15. "I want to say something to you that my partner says to me every time I’m stressing about how I can possibly take any extra shifts on, keep up at uni and not succumb to my mental illness at the same time: It’s not your problem. The lack of staff is a management problem. Their inability to organise a working roster is a management problem too."
"Also, when I hurt myself and had to take a few months out to have surgery and recover, suddenly we had two new hires! Months and months of being understaffed and the three casuals picking up the slack and the week I’m out with no ability to be called in, we suddenly have two new staff members! I love my workplace, it’s one of the best casual jobs I’ve ever had. And it could have been a coincidence. But it doesn’t feel like one."
16. "Most places are somewhat understaffed right now. If your workplace cannot hire enough people to cover shifts, you can find another place that treats (and likely pays) its staff better. And for what it’s worth, hiring people is easy. People want to work and there are people looking for jobs."
17. "If you’re sick, don’t go to work. It’s not good for you or anyone else. If you have a family emergency or safety concerns, then don’t go in. If it’s really that much of a hassle, your boss can always fire you. Work hard when you’re there, but don’t let work be the priority for your life, because your life is so far from a priority for your work/boss/company."
18. "The casualisation for the workforce was always designed to benefit the employer and not you. If it was good for you, employers wouldn't prefer casuals. You have three options; suck it up, stand up for your casual rights, or find a new job."
19. "The gig economy of Australia in general is fucked. Yeah, we’ve got a low unemployment rate at the moment, but people are fucking hustling right now. Unfortunately, the cost of living is increasing so much, lots of people don’t have the liberty to walk away."
20. "At the same time businesses turn around and wonder why employees don't give a shit about calling in sick with no notice or prioritising life over work. If a business doesn't give a shit about their workers, they shouldn't be surprised when workers return the sentiment."
21. "The casualisation of the Australian workforce over the last 10 years is fucked. It seems to be overwhelmingly in favour of businesses instead of employees."
22. "I'm a registered nurse. I work agency, because fuck ward politics, horizontal violence and all that. Over Easter, I had six ICU 12 hour night shifts booked. The first three were cancelled within an hour of them commencing. The agency literally called me while I was parking my motorbike. THREE times. I declined the last three, because I'd rather not sleep all day just to be cancelled for no pay. My circadian rhythms are absolutely fucked. I'm quitting nursing. Jesus, all the training, my skills and experience, just to be pissed on like this...and people bang pots in their driveways and call us heroes. I'm done."
23. And finally: "Forget the loyalty aspect right now. Help a person/business out, no worries, but loyalty has to go both ways and if it isn't, then you're being a mug to yourself. I've done the loyalty thing before in a small business and in a large business, it doesn't work out for you — the only winner is them. Be loyal to yourself and what you want and need."
What do you think of the state of casual work in Australia? And for non-Aussies reading along — how does it work in your country? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.