There can be a thin line between permanent and casual employment. In some cases, employment may start on a casual basis, but evolve over time to be permanent – even if the parties don’t realise this has happened.

The differences between casual and permanent employment are sometimes difficult to determine, and a substantial volume of case law has built up on the issue. In summary, the following principles apply:

  • An employee’s status as casual or permanent is determined by the facts. In the absence of a written employment agreement, and even where an employee is referred to as a casual employee, that person may be considered a permanent employee if they are found to regularly work for the employer. However, where any such employee has signed an employment agreement which designates employment as casual then it will be more difficult, but not impossible, to argue that such employment is in fact permanent.
  • A part-time employee is likely to be classed as a permanent employee if that employee reasonably held an expectation of a continued offer of regular employment by the employer.
  • Initial casual employment may change to permanent employment if there is evidence that, over time, such employment evolved from an irregular and uncertain offer to a regular and certain offer of employment by the employer.

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