In Australia, the law about working conditions and entitlements is different depending on whether you work for a company (usually its name will end with ‘Pty Ltd’ or ‘Ltd’) or a sole trader or partnership. This page only explains the rules for people who work for a company.
If you work for a sole trader or partnership, or you aren’t sure what kind of business your employer is, please contact us here and we can give you some advice about your entitlements. Before contacting us, have a look at your pay slip and see what the letterhead says, and also send us the name of your employer.
Casual work is when you work for no particular set time and you aren’t guaranteed any or a particular number of hours a week. You are usually asked to work whenever your employer needs your help. If the business is not busy, your boss doesn’t have to offer you work.
Casual employees don’t get paid annual leave or paid sick leave, but instead receive a casual loading (usually 25% of their base hourly rate of pay) on top of their hourly wage. As a casual worker, you are also entitled to two days unpaid carer’s leave and compassionate leave.
In many cases, a casual employee has to work at least between two and three hours each shift. However your minimum shift length depends on the modern award or enterprise agreement that you are covered by and you should check this before starting work.
A modern award is a legally binding document that sets the minimum employment conditions for certain occupations or industries. If your job is covered by a modern award, the modern award will set out the minimum number of hours each shift that you work.
For example, if you are in high school and employed under the General Retail Industry Award 2010 you can work 90-minute shifts from 3pm – 6.30pm on school days, if both you and your parents agree.
An enterprise agreement is a special form of agreement made between an employer and the majority of its employees (so it is specific to that workplace or employer) and must be registered with the Fair Work Commission to operate. Many large employers (such as Coles and Woolworths) have enterprise agreements.
An enterprise agreement overrides a modern awards and will set your minimum terms and conditions of employment, including your minimum hours of work.
For more information about casual work, you can go to: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/types-of-employees/casual-part-time-and-full-time/casual-employees
Part time employees work less than 38 hours each week but still have regular and set hours. These hours are usually rostered on and don’t usually change without notice.
Part time workers receive all of the leave entitlements of a full-time worker, but in a percentage based on how much time you work. For example, if you work ½ the time of a full-time worker, you will get half the days of annual leave.
For more information about part time work, you can go to: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/types-of-employees/casual-part-time-and-full-time/part-time-employees
Full-time work is when you work an average of 38 hours each week. Your hours may be rostered and usually can’t be changed without notice unless you have a contract which says that they can be changed or the change is allowed under any applicable modern award or enterprise agreement that applies to your job.
Your rights at work are explained in the National Employment Standards (NES) (see our page on working conditions) and your modern award or enterprise agreement, if you are covered by one.
The NES covers all workers in the national workplace relations system, and your employment contract, modern award or enterprise agreement can’t take away rights that are guaranteed by the NES. If you work full time, you will most likely be covered by the NES and your employer should give you a Fair Work Information Statement. You can read more about Fair Work Information Statements here: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/minimum-workplace-entitlements/fair-work-information-statement
You can read about the national workplace relations system here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/about-us/the-national-workplace-relations-system/coverage
You can also check with your employer to see if you are covered by a modern award or an enterprise agreement. Otherwise, you can visit this website https://www.fairwork.gov.au/awards-and-agreements/ where you can search for your modern award or enterprise agreement.
Generally if you are employed full time, you will get maximum work hours (38 hours plus reasonable additional hours) and be able to get redundancy pay and be given notice if you are fired, as well as annual leave, personal leave, compassionate leave, parental leave, and community service leave.
For more information about full time work, you can go to: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/types-of-employees/casual-part-time-and-full-time
If you are under 25 and you are unsure about your rights or responsibilities or what to do next, you can get free, confidential legal advice here.
Youth Law Australia would like to express thanks to Hall & Wilcox and the Fair Work Ombudsman for assisting us with the preparation of this material.
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