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Reducing Casual Employee Hours

We’ve recently received calls asking for clarification about reducing casual employee hours.

Enquiries we’ve received have been less about cancelling a single casual shift when things are quiet and more about making more permanent changes when casual employees have been working a regular weekly roster.

It’s a topic worth a short blog so let’s start with some key background info…

Types of Employment

Full-time and part-time employees have an advance commitment to ongoing employment. They can expect to work regular hours each week.

In contrast, a person is a casual employee if they accept a job offer knowing that there is no firm advance commitment to ongoing work with an agreed pattern of work.

For example, if an employee is employed as casual, their roster changes each week to suit their employer’s needs, and they can refuse or swap shifts, it could mean they are a casual worker.

What does the law say?

Under the Fair Work Act, a person is a casual employee if:

  • they are offered a job;
  • the offer does not include a firm advance commitment that the work will continue indefinitely with an agreed pattern of work; and
  • they accept the offer knowing that there is no firm advance commitment and become an employee.

Given casual employees have no reasonable expectation for ongoing and regular work, an employer has the right to reduce a casual’s hours without receiving the permission of the employee. The exception to the employer’s unilateral right is when an employee is considered to be a “long-term casual employee”.

A long-term casual is an employee who, over a calendar period of at least 12 months, has worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis and could perform the same work as a permanent employee without a significant adjustment being required.

Reducing the hours of a long-term casual employee may require the employer to undertake similar steps as they would if changing the rosters or hours of work of a full-time or part-time employee. Such steps may include following the Consultation obligations under the applicable Award.

Do your homework before reducing hours

A decision by an employer to reduce the hours of a casual employee without following the T&C’s of the applicable Award and/or the workers’ Employment Agreement can constitute a breach of contract.

Therefore, a termination of employment at the initiative of the employer, exposes the employer to the risk of responding to an unfair dismissal application.

Tread carefully when you go ahead with reducing an employee’s hours of work

Generally, reducing any employee’s hours of work should be done with caution.

When it comes to casual employees, you should make sure that you:

  • Comply with your legal obligations as the employer;

  • Ensure your Employment Agreements contain wording that stipulates that casual employees typically do not have regular or systematic hours of work and they will be offered varying hours of work, depending on operational requirements and their availability.

Need HR Support? We Can Help

Bare Bones Consulting specialises in providing the right HR documents and processes for your business.

Employment Agreements for any status of employment – full-time, part-time or casual – don’t necessarily have to be complex or wordy; they simply need to contain wording that aligns with current employment legislation as well as content that meets your business needs.

A small investment in the right HR function delivers a high return…and what business owner wouldn’t see the logic in that?

Greg at Bare Bones Consulting is a Gold Coast HR Consultant who operates throughout the Tweed Coast, Gold Coast and Brisbane

You can contact Greg for HR Advice on 0401 279 065 or send him an online enquiry.

  • PO Box 3956,
    Burleigh Town 4220,
  • 07 5576 4693
  • 0401 279 065
  • Bare Bones Consulting

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.