This information is only relevant to employers and employees in the WA state industrial relations system – sole traders, unincorporated partnerships, unincorporated trusts and some incorporated or not for profit organisations. Find out more on the Guide to who is in the WA state system page.
If you operate or are employed by a Pty Ltd business – you can find information on this topic on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
There are several different kinds of employment arrangements. It is important to be clear which applies so that employees receive the correct pay and entitlements.
Full time and part time employees are workers who are in “permanent” ongoing employment. They work on a regular ongoing basis every week for a set number of hours. Part time employees receive the same wages and conditions as full time employees but on a proportionate basis according to the hours they work.
Full time and part time employees are entitled to paid annual leave, sick leave, bereavement leave and long service leave, as well as unpaid parental leave.
A casual employee is an employee employed on a casual basis, with no expectation or guarantee of ongoing work. A casual employee may work on an irregular basis as needed.
Minimum rates of pay for casual employees include a loading (of at least 20%) to compensate for the paid leave entitlements they do not receive. Some WA awards require a higher casual loading to be paid and provide penalty rates for casuals working at particular times.
Many WA awards specify a minimum number of hours in a shift a casual employee can work, as well as restrict how long an employee can be employed as a casual. Such restrictions do not apply to award free casuals. Please check any specific requirements in your award about casuals in the WA award summaries.
Casuals can be terminated by giving the notice required in a relevant WA award or reasonable notice if there are no specific notice requirements in an award. Casual employees are able to make a claim of unfair dismissal with the WA Industrial Relations Commission.
Casuals do not receive paid sick or annual leave. Casual employees are entitled to paid bereavement leave and up to two days unpaid carer's leave for each occasion when they need to take care of a family or household member. Casual employees are entitled to long service leave if they have the required period of continuous service. Casuals are also entitled to unpaid parental leave if they have been employed for at least 12 months and have a reasonable expectation of continuing engagement by the employer on a regular and systematic basis.
Offering casual employment may be a useful option for employers to consider for:
- busy times or peak periods that require a larger workforce;
- seasonal work;
- replacing other employees who are sick or on leave for short periods of time; or
- where the business has variable staffing demand.
There is no type of employment that is “permanent casual”. An employee receiving regular ongoing work with consistent hours may not be a casual and may be a full or part time employee. Employers can potentially be liable for back pay of unpaid leave entitlements if an employee is working regular hours on a long-term basis. This will depend on the individual circumstances, including the provisions of any award that applies to the employment.
The difference between a casual and permanent employee
|Hours may vary from week to week
||Works regular hours each week/fortnight and the number of hours worked is generally consistent
|May work on an irregular basis as needed
|There is no expectation or guarantee of ongoing work
||Employment is ongoing
|May have no consistency in start or finish times
||Generally have consistent start and finish times
|May be able to refuse work
||Regular hours are generally required to be worked
|No entitlement to be paid sick and annual leave
||Entitlement to paid sick and annual leave
A fixed term employee is employed for an agreed length of time or to perform a specific task under a fixed term employment contract. Fixed term employment can be offered on a full time or part time basis. The length of employment needs to be agreed to beforehand and should be formalised in writing.
Fixed term employment may be an appropriate option for replacing employees who are absent for a period of leave or for a project of a finite length.
Fixed term employees are entitled to the same leave entitlements as full time or part time employees but on a proportionate basis depending on the period of employment.
Employees who work on commission receive a percentage for the sales that they make and are paid when they sell or achieve a specific target.
Piece rate employees are paid per unit of production or per task they finish – for example, for each basket of fruit picked.
Some WA awards allow employees to be paid on a commission or piece rate basis and provide pay rates and leave entitlements. Employees who are award free can be paid by commission or piece rate, and if they are paid only in this manner there is no minimum wage required and no minimum paid or unpaid leave entitlements.
A probationary period may be used at the commencement of employment to assess whether or not an employee is suitable and capable of doing the work for which they were employed.
It is important that the nature of any probationary arrangement is clearly communicated and understood by both the employer and employee.
To gain maximum benefit from a probation period, it is important that the employer and employee agree, preferably in writing, on issues such as:
- the length of the probationary period;
- how and when employee performance will be assessed; and
- the employer’s expectations and obligations.
During the probationary period, both the employer and employee have all the rights and duties normally associated with the employment relationship. Probationary employees may make a claim of unfair dismissal in the WA Industrial Relations Commission. An employer wishing to dismiss a probationary employee must have a valid and fair reason for doing so, such as:
- consistent unsatisfactory work performance
- inappropriate behaviour or actions
- serious misconduct.
An employee who is not meeting their employer’s expectations should be informed and given an opportunity to respond and improve. They should also be warned that a failure to improve may lead to termination, and if necessary, be given assistance to meet the required standard.
The employee should be advised prior to the end of the probationary period whether or not their employment will be continuing. If an employee is deemed to be unsuitable, they are still entitled to receive notice of termination and to have any entitlements owing paid out.
Please note that some WA awards contain provisions about probationary periods. It is not permissible for an employer and employee to agree to a probationary arrangement which contravenes an applicable award. For example, if the applicable award states that an employee may be engaged under probation for a period not exceeding three months, the employer and employee cannot agree to a six month period of probation.
Sometimes an employer may offer a short period of unpaid trial work to allow a person to demonstrate that they have the skills needed for a vacant job.
Whether an unpaid work trial is lawful will depend on the circumstances, including:
- The job being offered – it may be unlawful to require an unpaid trial period where a trial isn’t necessary to demonstrate the skills required for the job.
- The length of the trial – a trial should only be as long as is necessary for a person to demonstrate their skills. This will vary from job to job, and depend on the nature and complexity of the work. A trial could range from one hour to one shift.
- The nature of the trial – a trial may be unlawful if it involves more than just a demonstration of a person’s skills. It should not be used by employers to get free labour.
- Supervision – a person being trialled should be under supervision for the whole period of the trial.