Employment types 

Does a casual worker have the same employment rights as a permanent employee?

All employees have minimum rights and responsibilities by law, but these can vary slightly depending on the type of employment agreement you have. Before you sign an employment agreement, make sure you know how to distinguish between the three main  employment types: permanent, fixed-term and casual.

Permanent employee (full-time or part-time) - this is the type of employment which we usually think of when we think about employment.  If you’re a permanent employee, there is no end date to the period of employment, so once your trial period has ended (if there is one), you can expect to continue to be employed until you resign or are dismissed

Fixed-term /seasonal employee (full-time or part-time) –  if you’re employed for a fixed term, your employment will come to an end on a specified date, or when a specific event happens.  Your employment agreement must state a genuine reason why your employment is only for a fixed term -   for example to temporarily replace an employee who is on parental leave, or to pick fruit during the period when it is ripe.

During the term of your employment you have the same employment rights and responsibilities as a permanent employee.

Part-time vs full-time - these terms describe the number of hours you regularly work, not an employment type. Generally, 35-40 hours per week is considered full-time while part-time employment is less than this.  Whether you are part-time or full-time generally does not affect your employment rights.

Casual employee - a casual employee is someone who works for an employer as and when it suits both parties. There are no guaranteed hours of work and there is no on-going expectation of employment. For example a casual employee might work in a role for one day to cover a permanent employee’s absence while that person is on sick leave.

A casual employee has the same rights and obligations as a permanent employee (e.g. to sick leave and annual leave), except that usually they receive holiday pay instead of paid holidays.

If a casual employee’s hours start to become regular (for example they are asked to work for a set number of hours every week) then the employment type could be considered permanent (part-time) rather than casual.  

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What about independent contractors and unpaid interns? 

Independent contractors and unpaid interns are not regarded as employees.

The terms and conditions that an independent contractor works under are not covered by employment law. As an independent contractor, your conditions of work should be covered by a “contract for service” drawn up between you and the business or organisation you do work for.

See our Employee or independent contractor? page for more information about the differences between employees and independent contractors.

An unpaid intern or volunteer  has agreed to work with no expectation of pay and is therefore not an employee and are not covered by employment law. Your conditions of work may be covered by a volunteer or internship agreement between you and the business or organisation you volunteer for. You still have rights and obligations under health and safety legislation.