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Labour market shortages; how to prepare for hiring holiday casuals in 2021

Are you looking to hire an extra pair of hands to help you get through the busy Christmas and New Year period?

How will you attract staff?

Finding staff has been a challenge for many businesses in 2021, particularly in regional Western Australia. The usual approaches you have taken many not necessarily work this year, so planning early and looking at alternate means of attracting staff is key. This could include extending the period in which you will employ casuals, offering a slightly higher hourly rate or providing other incentives that make you stand out from other local employers (such as a staff discount on products or services).

Another alternative is looking towards family and friends. Do they have the skills/ability to provide an extra pair of hands either on the weekends of afterhours? Are there tasks that are less time sensitive that could be done outside of your business hours when your friends and family are available to help?

While there is no one size fits all approach to attracting staff, starting to think and plan about ‘what if’ scenarios will help you prepare and adapt for these situations as they pop up. This should also include what you will do if you can’t attract the number of staff needed. Can you implement temporary customer/sales limits or limit your product/service range on offer to help you manage demand?

What is a casual employee?

A casual employee is someone who only works on an ‘as needs’ basis. While there is no set definition of what a casual employee is, they are generally regarded as someone who:

  • doesn’t have guaranteed or regular working hours
  • doesn’t receive entitlements like sick leave or annual leave
  • is not required to provide a minimum notice period before leaving their employment (unless specified in the relevant award)
  • is entitled to a higher rate of pay due to the lack of job security and leave entitlements.

If you get to the end of the festive season and decide you would like to keep your casual staff, you can change them to full or part-time employment at any time, if both sides agree.

Read our overview on the different types of employment to find out if hiring a casual staff member is right for your business.

Tip: Some awards will also include a casual conversion clause where the employee can apply to be converted from casual to permanent if they have been working for you for 12 months.

Your obligations as an employer

When it comes to hiring Christmas casuals it’s important to remember:

  • their pay must include any set-up or pack-down time at the start or end of their shift
  • an employment contract should be signed by you and the employee
  • unpaid trial periods for employees are illegal.

Read our employer obligations for more information.

Knowing the correct wage entitlement

There are two industrial relations systems operating in Western Australia. The system that applies to you will depend on how your business was set up.

The national system will apply if you have an incorporated business (such as a ‘Pty Ltd’ or ‘Ltd’). If you are under this system, the Fair Work Ombudsman can provide details on paying employees and the correct wage entitlements.

The state system applies to sole traders, unincorporated partnerships and some trusts. If you’re under the state system, you can contact Wageline.

Recruiting and managing casual staff

With unemployment hitting an eight year low and more Western Australians shopping and holidaying locally due to COVID-19 impacts, it’s essential to act early to recruit additional staff for the peak holiday season. If recruitment is new to you, or you would like some pointers on how to effectively manage the process, read our tips on hiring your first employee and how to handle job applications.

Tip: You can use the taking on an employee checklist on the business.gov.au website to help guide you through the legal requirements or hiring employees.

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