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Three Questions (and Answers) About Casual Employment

Queenstown has a lot of workers who are casual. Let’s explore a couple of questions about casual employment.  

1. What is casual employment?

There is general agreement that a worker is a casual employee if their employer doesn’t make any advance commitment to ongoing employment or the amount or timing of work they will be asked to do.

A casual employee is someone who has no set hours or days of work and the employer is under no obligation to provide ongoing work. On the other hand, if the employee is offered work they are under no obligation to accept it. They can choose to work, or not work, or only work in areas of their choosing.

A casual employee does not have the same rights and entitlements normally provided to permanent employees:    

  • casual staff are entitled to receive a loading in their wages for annual leave;
  • casuals are not entitled to paid annual leave;
  • casual employees have no right to guaranteed hours of work;

However, casual staff are entitled to sick leave if they have been employed over 6 months for at least an average of 10 hours a week and no less than 1 hour in every week, or no less than 40 hours in every month during that period.

2. Who is working casually?

We know quite a bit about who works casually. Women are more likely to be in casual jobs than men, although the gap is narrowing. More than half of all part-time employees are in casual jobs. Only about 10% of casual staff are full-time employees.

Workers on regular daytime shifts are less likely to be in casual jobs than those who work in the evening or at night.

Casual employment being concentrated in part-time jobs means it accounts for a larger share of the number of people employed than it does of hours worked.

3. Does the casualization of the workforce mirror Australia?

No, despite strong parallels, casual employment is less significant in New Zealand as a proportion of the total workforce and it has failed to show the same pace of growth as in Australia.

The reasons are complex but basically, the advantages of casual employment to employers are narrower and less attractive in New Zealand. This is partly because at the bottom of the market all employees can claim access to basic rights and benefits under a statutory 'minimum code’. This also works, in reverse, for employees at the top of the market. Permanent workers in New Zealand have fewer benefits than permanent workers in Australia.