Types of working arrangements

This page is for: 
EmployerEmployee / worker

wa_image_small.jpg This information is only relevant to employers and employees in the WA state industrial relations system.

This page provides information on types of employment and other workplace arrangements. 

On this page, the terms WA award and award free are used. 

  • In the state system, many employees are covered by a WA award.  WA awards are legal documents made by the WA Industrial Relations Commission that outline legal pay rates, allowances, working hours, and leave entitlements for employees in a particular industry or type of work. 
  • Award free means that the employee is not covered by a WA award, and must be paid at least the minimum rates of pay and minimum leave entitlements.
  • If you are unsure if a WA award applies to you or your business, visit the WA awards for common jobs page or contact Wageline to assist in determining likely WA award coverage.

Employee or independent contractor?

An independent contractor is not an employee, but rather a worker running their own independent business. They are sometimes also referred to as “contractors” or “subcontractors”.

Visit the Employee or independent contractor page for information on the differences between an employee and an independent contractor.

The Industrial Relations Act 1979 prohibits sham contracting. A ‘sham contracting’ arrangement may occur when an employer knowingly disguises an employment relationship by telling an employee that they are being hired as an independent contractor when they are really an employee. Visit the Prohibition on sham contracting page for more information. 

Full time and part time employment

Full time and part time employees are workers who are in 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, personal leave, bereavement leave and long service leave, as well as up to two days’ unpaid personal leave for caring purposes, five days’ unpaid family and domestic violence leave, and unpaid parental leave.

Most WA awards regulate the number of hours employees can work and when these hours can be worked. A 38 hour week is the normal hours for a full time employee under the majority of WA awards. A part time or casual employee can work less hours per week, and many WA awards establish minimum and/or maximum numbers of hours for part time and casual employees. 

A 38 hour week is the normal hours for a full time employee who is award free. Award free part time or casual employees can work less hours per week as agreed with the employer. There is no minimum number of hours for award free part time or casual employees.

See the Hours of work page for more information on working hours for full time and part time employees.

Probationary period for full time and part time employees

A probationary period may be used at the commencement of employment to assess whether or not a full time or part time employee is suitable and capable of doing the work for which they were employed. 

Some WA awards contain provisions about probationary periods. An employer and employee cannot agree to a probationary arrangement which contravenes an applicable WA award. For example, if the applicable WA 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.

The employee should be informed by the employer prior to starting work, or when commencing work, about the length of the probationary period, as well as the employer’s expectations and how and when employee performance will be assessed.

During the probationary period, both the employer must provide all applicable employment entitlements, including applicable WA award or minimum pay rates and relevant leave entitlements.

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. 

An employer wishing to dismiss a probationary employee must have a valid and fair reason for doing so and provide the required period of notice. Visit the When employment ends section for more information.

Casual employment

A casual employee is an employee employed on a casual basis, with no guarantee of ongoing work. A casual employee may work on an irregular basis as needed.  

Minimum rates of pay for award free casual employees include a casual loading of 20%. Casual loading rates in WA awards vary, and many WA awards require employers to pay penalty rates (higher pay 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.

Casual employees are entitled to paid long service leave if they have the required period of continuous service. Casual employees are not entitled to paid personal or annual leave.  

Casual employees are entitled to paid bereavement leave, unpaid personal leave for caring purposes and unpaid family and domestic violence leave. 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 demands.

An employee receiving regular ongoing work with consistent hours may not be a casual employee, but instead a full time 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 WA award that applies.

Some factors indicating types of employment
Casual employee Full time or part time employee
Employer and employee have agreed that employee is engaged as a casual employee Employer and employee have agreed that employee is engaged as a full time or part time 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 As above
There is no 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

Fixed term employment

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 paid by commission

Minimum employment entitlements apply to employees who are paid wholly or partly by commission or percentage reward, for example, employees paid according to a percentage of their total sales.

See the Minimum entitlements for employees paid by commission or piece rates page for more information on pay and entitlements for this type of employee.

Unpaid trial work

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 is not 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 simply to get free labour.
  • Supervision – a person being trialed should be under supervision for the whole period of the trial.

A person engaged on unpaid trial work may in fact be an employee at law. If this is the case, they will be entitled to minimum rates of pay and other entitlements.


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