There are many employment options in Australia. Whether you’re a business owner looking to employ staff or a jobseeker evaluating potential job opportunities, it’s essential to understand wages and other entitlements of different types of employment so you can make the right choices.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- Permanent employment
- Casual employment
- Short-term employment, such as fixed-term contracts, labour hire and daily hire and weekly hire
- Other types of employment, such as outworkers, shiftworkers, apprenticeships and traineeships
Permanently employed workers have a firm commitment from their employer about the days or hours they’ll work on an ongoing basis. They enjoy job certainty and the security of a steady, regular wage.
Full-time employees work an average of 38 hours per week. Their award, registered agreement or employment contract specifies the number of hours they’re expected to work each week.
Full-time workers accrue paid leave, such as annual, sick, carer’s, and long service leave. They’re entitled to written notice of termination or to be paid out for the period of notice.
Generally, part-time employees have regular hours, although they work less than 38 hours per week. They’re eligible for the same entitlements as those working full-time but on a pro-rata basis according to their working hours.
For example, full-time employees working 38 hours are entitled to 10 days or 76 hours of sick leave per year. Individuals working part-time for 19 hours per week would receive five days or 38 hours of sick leave.
Awards and registered agreements often have additional record-keeping requirements for part-time employees. Employers may need to keep a written contract detailing work hours, meal breaks and minimum daily hours for every part-time worker.
Casual employees typically don’t expect ongoing work. Their hours tend to be irregular and fluctuate in line with business demand. They can accept or refuse offers of work and swap shifts.
Casual employees don’t have paid leave entitlements so they’re often paid a casual loading on top of their hourly rate. Their modern award or registered agreement specifies their casual loading percentage.
Long-term casuals, or casual workers who have been employed for 12 months, could request flexible working arrangements and take unpaid parental leave.
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These types of employment arrangements are not ongoing.
A person can be employed for an agreed time, like a six- or 12-month contract for a specific project or to replace an employee who is on leave. During their employment period, they may work full-time or part-time hours.
Fixed-term employees have the same wages, penalties and leave entitlements as permanent staff but on a pro-rata basis depending on the length of their employment. Their award or registered agreement may contain additional requirements regarding their rights and working conditions.
In a labour-hire arrangement, an organisation hires staff through a labour-hire agency, but the agency employs the worker rather than the organisation. An example is a nurse working for a nursing agency.
For a commission or agency fee, the agency outsources a labour-hire worker to an organisation for an agreed period, which might be short-term or long-term. The worker performs work for the organisation but is paid their wages and entitlements by the agency. The worker has no contractual relationship with the organisation.
Daily hire and weekly hire
The building, construction, and plumbing industries can sometimes hire workers daily or weekly. These hires can work full-time or part-time hours and are entitled to annual sick leave. They have a “follow the job” loading as part of their hourly pay rate to make up for their time between jobs.
Daily hire employees can give or receive one day’s notice to end employment.
Employers have to hire apprentices as a weekly rather than daily hire under the Building and Construction General Onsite Award and the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award. Apprentices must be employed as full-time weekly hire employees per the Plumbing Award.
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Other types of employment
From apprenticeships to shiftworkers, you may encounter these common types of employment arrangements.
Common in the textile, clothing or footwear industries, outworkers are contractors or employees who work outside the premises of a business — from their home, for example.
Outworkers are also entitled to annual leave, carer’s leave and long service leave. Their relevant modern award or registered agreement usually details working conditions and wage rates. The National Employment Standards and minimum wage rate apply for non-award and agreement-free workers.
The outworker gets the same conditions as other employees if their award or employment agreement doesn’t contain terms directly related to outworkers.
Common in customer service, hospitality and security industries, shiftworkers keep businesses running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Shifts are often divided into mornings, nights and weekends, and employees either work the same shifts each week or are rostered on a rotating schedule. Shiftworkers regularly work on Sundays and public holidays.
While regular employees receive four weeks of paid annual leave, shiftworkers are entitled to one extra week for a total of five weeks. They also receive a shift loading or penalty rate. Their modern award or registered agreement outlines minimum work conditions and entitlements.
Commission and piece-rate employees
Some employees, such as commission and piece-rate employees, are paid for results or by how much they’ve done rather than their working hours. This arrangement is possible for people covered by an award or agreement that allows it, or for individuals not covered by an award or agreement.
Overseas or migrant workers
Sometimes, employers will sponsor a skilled worker who lives overseas to come to work in Australia. Or they might hire a visa holder who is eligible to work and is already in the country.
Migrant workers typically share the same workplace rights as Australian workers.
Apprenticeship and traineeships
Generally, apprenticeships and traineeships are about on-the-job learning. People looking to complete a trade qualification, say as a chef or hairdresser, undertake apprenticeships of around 3-4 years. Others studying for a certificate level qualification for industries like childcare or information technology undertake traineeships for 1-2 years.
Employees with a formal training contract are paid the apprentice or trainee pay rate. Apprentices might get pay increases over time or as they become more skilled.
New hires often have to go through a probationary period of three to six months. During this time, employers can assess if their recruit is suitable for the role, and both the employer and employee can end the employment on shorter notice. Employees on probation receive the same entitlements as those not on probation, and they can accrue and access paid leave entitlements like annual and sick leave.