Published: 18 November 2015
Author: Peter Claven
The facts about casuals and WorkCover
I recall someone telling me how he felt when he once worked as a casual among permanents. They all worked the same hours, did the same work, responded to the same demands.
Yet as Christmas approached, a bunch of hampers were delivered to his office as gifts from management. Everyone in that office had a hamper placed on his desk. All that is except his desk.
When an embarrassed co-worker called head office to report the omission, she was told that it wasn’t an omission. Management had decided that casuals, even those working full time, would not receive Christmas hampers. Only permanents.
You can say all you like about how the law doesn’t discriminate against casuals. But in a thousand small and not so small ways, they feel like a second-class workforce, and are often treated as such.
WorkCover and casual work – what are the facts?
It is no surprise then that many casual workers, including those that work for labour hire firms, believe they have no WorkCover rights.
While that is not correct in law, it is a difficult notion to dispel.
- Like permanent employees, casual employees are entitled to compensation for lost earnings and for medical expenses if they are injured at work.
- They can also pursue an impairment lump sum claim and a common law claim for damages, just like permanent employees.
- Casuals are protected by the same occupational health and safety laws that protect other workers, meaning that employers are required to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.
- And like permanent workers, casuals who are sacked can pursue an unfair dismissal application with the Fair Work Commission (provided they worked on a regular and systematic basis).
- Casuals can use equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws in the same way as other workers if they feel they are being unlawfully discriminated against.
What about Super? Do casuals need to be paid superannuation?
Yes. And no.
An employer must make superannuation contributions into an approved superannuation fund to any casual who earns more than $450 gross per month.
However, an employer does not have to make contributions for employees under 18 years of age who work less than 30 hours per week.
Many people who therefore work as casuals find themselves being used by employers so that they never cross these financial thresholds. But others who work longer hours do have rights before the law.
The real solution is permanent work
However, because of the temporary nature of casual work, many people feel intimidated, and are reluctant to complain. That’s the reality.
And until we can strengthen workplace protections for casual workers, or better still reverse the trend towards insecure work, the law can only be of limited practical help in the real world.
Share you thoughts
If you have been working under labour hire arrangements or as a casual, you may have some experiences you’d like to share.