How you are employed affects what your entitlements are at work, what responsibilities you have and even how much you can expect to be paid. The most common types of employment are listed below.
Full-time employees have a permanent position or are on a fixed-term contract.
As a full-time employee, you are entitled to all of the minimum conditions laid out in the National Employment Standards as well as the entitlements included in the award or agreement that covers your workplace.
Part-time employment usually means working less than 38 hours per week.
Like working full-time, working part-time means that you have permanent position or are on a fixed-term contract.
You are entitled to the same amount of leave as a full-time employee, relative to the number of days you work. For example, if you work two days a week, and a full-time worker would be given four weeks off, this means that your entitlement to four weeks’ leave would equate to eight days off.
As a casual employee, your employer is not committed to providing you with regular hours or to employing you for any length of time. You are also not required to work a certain amount each week.
Casual employees are entitled to the minimum conditions laid out in the National Employment Standards, or the award or agreement that covers their workplace. However, casuals are not entitled to paid leave—including on public holidays.
As a casual, you do not have to give notice if you want to resign—and your boss does not have to give you notice if they want to dismiss you—unless your award or agreement states otherwise.
To make up for this lack of job security, casual workers are entitled to casual loading—an extra amount of pay on top of what you would make if you were a permanent employee doing the same job. Casual loading is usually an extra 25%.
If you have been working for the same employer for longer than 12 months you can request flexible working arrangements and access unpaid parental leave.
Shift workers work in roles that need to be done outside of what are considered ordinary business hours, sometimes for longer periods of time than other types of work—often around the clock. This means that shifts often fall at inconvenient times.
Shift workers are usually permanent employees. If you are a permanent shift worker, you are entitled to all of the minimum standards laid out in the National Employment Standards—plus those in the award or agreement that covers your workplace.
Shift workers are also entitled to an extra week of annual leave under the National Employment Standards.
Independent contractors are usually not considered to be employees and are not covered by normal employment law.
However, if you are an independent contractor, the organisation that engages with you still has a legal responsibility to provide you with a safe working environment and one that is free from discrimination.
As an independent contractor, you are also covered by laws that protect you against unfair contracting arrangements.
Some employers attempt to use independent contracting as a way of disguising their employment relationship and avoiding employment laws. This illegal practise is known as sham contracting.
Sham contracting refers to an employer deliberately misrepresenting their employees as independent contractors. This is common practice in a number of industries, especially in the so-called gig economy.
Just because your boss made you get an ABN, doesn’t mean that you are necessarily a genuine contractor. Here are some key factors that suggest you should be considered an employee and not an independent contractor:
- You do not have control over the way you work—genuine independent contractors can choose how they get a job done, including by hiring other people to sub-contract work to
- You are integrated into your employer’s organisation—genuine independent contractors remain independent, meaning you should not have a boss to report to
- You are required to wear a uniform, or display material that associates you with your employer’s business—genuine independent contractors work for themselves, not the company that engages their services
- Your employer can suspend or dismiss you as they would an employee
Sham contracting is illegal. However, a lack of enforcement means that it remains widespread.
Daily and weekly hire
Certain employees can be hired on a daily and weekly basis. This is limited to:
- Trades people and labourers who work under the Building and Construction General On-site Award
- Mechanics and plumbers who work under the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award
You can be employed for either part-time or full-time hours in this type of employment. Apprentices can only be hired on a weekly basis.
Daily hire employees also have additional entitlements:
- Giving or receiving only one day’s notice when leaving their job
- Tradespeople are paid for an extra hour at the end of their employment to collect, clean and pack away their tools
- A follow-the-job loading—a higher rate of pay that compensates for the time they spend not working between jobs
Labour hire employees are hired by a labour-hire provider, which supplies workers to a host organisation. Labour hire—also known as on-hire work—is commonly used to staff events and functions, where employees are only needed once and for a short amount of time.
As a labour hire employee, your entitlements come from the award or agreement that covers the provider’s workplace—not the award or agreement that covers the host organisation. Labour hire employees are usually hired by the labour hire company on a casual basis and are not entitled to paid leave or standard notice periods.
The labour hire provider is responsible for making sure your rights and entitlements are observed.
However, the host also has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace—which includes making sure you are not the victim of discrimination or harassment. Host organisations can be penalised if they do not do enough to make sure that your rights are observed.
Outworkers are employees or contractors who work at their home or somewhere that wouldn’t be thought of as a normal business premises. Outworkers are common in the textile, clothing and footwear industries.
The award or agreement that covers your workplace applies to outworkers as it does to other employees.
Awards and agreements often contain specific terms for outworkers. Ask your union for help if you are unsure about how to read your award or agreement.
If you need to know more, you can contact your union or the Australian Unions Support Centre for free, confidential information and advice about any workplace issue.
Funding for this factsheet was provided by:
- the Victorian Government as part of the uTech project; and
- the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Please note that the information given here is general information only and is not legal advice. For further assistance, it is recommended you speak to your union.