The Permanent Casual – Is There Such A Thing?

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Are you employed as a casual but don’t know how it compares? Or maybe you’d like to be permanent? Ben from the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) breaks down a lot of what it means to be casual and how that could soon change.

The ACTU’s campaign to Change the Rules this coming federal election has a number of important improvements for nurses with one in particular dealing with casual work which is significant.

There is good reason why unions do not encourage wide use of this classification, however most accept there is a legitimate role for this employment type to play in dealing with fluctuations in demand within the economy.

What is a casual?

In the Nurses Award 2010 a casual employee is defined as an employee engaged as such on an hourly basis and will be paid an hourly rate equal to 1/38th of the weekly rate appropriate to the employee’s classification. You are only employed on a shift by shift basis and paid the same hourly rate as other employees with 25% loading.

What does the 25% loading compensate for?

In deciding the components that makeup the 25% loadings the Fair Work Commission refers to the Metal, Engineering and Associated Industries Award 1998 decision where they state “we are not persuaded that an exact or precise quantification of different components should be welded on to the determination of casual loading” however on page 74 an estimate of 19.8%-20% for the paid entitlements of 20 days annual leave, 17.5% annual Leave Loadings, 10 days Personal Carers Leave and 10 days Public Holiday leave is not considered to be unrealistic.

That leaves around 5% to compensate for the following entitlements:

  • Engaged on an hourly basis (with no guarantee of future employment) therefore also not eligible for Notice of Terminations or Redundancy provisions.
  • Rest breaks between shifts and overtime
  • Overtime eligibility for either hours per day or hours per week not specified.
  • Requests for flexible working arrangements available only for “long term casual employee”.
  • Long Service Leave – As a consequence of being a casual, 10 years is a long time often not achieved to be eligible for Long Service Leave.
  • Severance Pay
  • Often Casuals have lower superannuation contributions due to the sporadic nature of the classification.

So the employer is really getting bag for the buck with the last 5% of the casual loading. On top of this, in the decision it states one of the “reasons that employers resort to casual employment is a belief that that it brings an economic pressure to bear against absenteeism”. Now in a health context, I’m not sure if nurses should be turning up to work sick or injured due to no access to paid sick/carers leave with the need to earn some money.

How big of a problem is the use of casuals in the private sector for nurses? Collating enterprise agreement statistics the below chart shows on average almost a quarter of staff are casual in aged care and just under a third are casual in private hospitals. This translates to a conservative estimate of over 10,000 casual nurses in aged care and around 5,000 nurses in private hospitals currently in New South Wales.

Now all the conditions mentioned above are minimum and the ANMF – NSW Branch/ NSWNMA have negotiated a number of key conditions for casuals which are an improvement, such as increased minimum engagement hours, improved casual conversion clauses, access to overtime and training to name a few.

I believe the high amount of casuals in both aged care and private hospitals show that this employment type is no longer a category of last resort to fill in unexpected absences but an employment type designed to reduce costs & employment conditions to which the ACTU’s Change the Rules are trying to change, and so they should.

Given all this, do you think your employer should decide your employment type, the hours you work determine and/or do you get to decide? All these options are now on the table this coming federal election.

Have further questions? NSWNMA Members can contact the Association for support here. To find out more benefits of being a member or to join the NSWNMA, visit this page.

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