In the case of direct employment arrangements (IAs and CAs but not Independent Contractor Agreements) there are a number of typical arrangements covering hours of work and tenure:
If the employment relationship is ongoing until terminated by the employee or the employer, the arrangement is described as permanent employment.
Around 40 hours per week usually constitutes full time hours of work.
Part-timers are permanent employees who usually work less than 40 hours per week. Usually such employees work a regular pattern of a set number of hours on a set number of days per week. However, increasingly such employees work a variable pattern of hours and days according to a weekly roster published by the employer.
Part-timers generally enjoy the same employment benefits and protections (for example, leave entitlements) as full time staff, though in some instances this is on a pro rata basis.
Casuals are not permanent employees. A casual’s employment ceases at the end of each period they are engaged to work. They may be engaged for a few hours at a time, a few days in a week, or full-time hours for a week or two to cover an employee on leave. The casual is typically employed for a series of such engagements, therefore working in the business off and on over an extended period of time. Nevertheless, they do not have an ongoing relationship with the employer in the same manner as a permanent employee.
Where a so-called casual works a regular pattern or virtually full-time hours on an ongoing basis, they are likely to be regarded a permanent employee. In this case the employee may be able to claim they were terminated unlawfully and/or be able to claim back payment for other entitlements denied them as a casual.
Casuals are paid only for the time they work.
Temporary or fixed-term contracts are for situations where an employee is employed for a limited period of time, or to complete a specified task or project.
However, great care is required when entering into fixed-term arrangements. There must be a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for the fixed term and the employee must be advised of when or how their employment will end and the reasons for the employment ending in that way.
Genuine reasons for fixed-term/temporary contracts could include the following:
- To cover an employee on parental leave or other absence (for example, study leave or special leave without pay)
- To undertake a specific project or work of a finite duration (for example, the implementation of an IT system)
- To cover those situations where there is no guarantee of funding for the work beyond a specific period
- To cover a temporary increase in normal workloads (for example, seasonal fluctuations).
Attention must also be paid to the expiry date. If the employee is permitted to continue working past the expiry date, the employee may be deemed to have become a permanent employee.
Care is needed if an existing fixed term/temporary contract is to be renewed or extended. A genuine reason will need to exist at the time of the renewal or extension.
If the employer prematurely terminates a genuine fixed term contract, the employer may be liable to pay the employee for the balance of the term of the contract. This can be overcome by inserting a notice period in a fixed term agreement, but this also provides the employee with the ability to give notice to terminate the contract before the stated expiry date.