A recent article reported in the Age (1 May 2019 written by Madeleine Heffernan), showed how prevalent casual and fixed term employment is in the Tertiary Sector. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/starvation-wages-majority-of-victorian-university-workers-in-casual-teaching-trap-20190501-p51j1y.html

Often, we have enquiries from casual and fixed term contract employees about whether they are entitled to benefits such as annual leave and long service leave.

Recent decisions have improved some conditions for casuals, including –

* claiming annual leave in certain cases (see Workpac v Skene [2018] FCAFB 13);

* counting their casual period of service, if later converting to permanency, for redundancy entitlements under the National Employment Standards (AMWU v Donau [2016] FWCFB 3075).

Existing benefits for casuals also include casuals with continuous service being able to claim long service leave under the Long Service Leave Act 2018 (Vic), or request permanent employment under some Modern Awards after 12 months of service. Certain employees engaged on renewed fixed term contracts, might also be able to access unfair dismissal laws (Khayam v Navitas English Pty Ltd [2017 FWCFB 5162).

However, some casuals, or employees engaged on fixed term contracts, simply do not have the benefit of having secure employment, or are otherwise concerned about pursuing their entitlements in fear that they will lose employment.

It is concerning that a majority of our tertiary staff, who have assisted many professionals launch or build their careers, are still casuals or engaged on a fixed term basis and missing out on important entitlements, including security of employment as permanent employees.

One might argue that casual / fixed term employment is a choice, convenient to the individual. However, the recent study quoted in the Age article suggested 63 per cent of workers in Victoria’s 8 biggest universities are casual or on fixed-term contracts (according to the data provided by Universities). This is unusually high and unlikely to be the product of choice for tertiary staff who are passionate about education and furthering academic thought over the longer term.

This trend it seems, suggests flexibility one way for an employer, without reciprocal benefits provided in return for an employee.

There was once a time when casual work was the exception to supplementing permanent staff. The statistics in relation to our University staff members, has turned this around.

If you are a casual or fixed term employee, it’s important to obtain legal advice in relation to circumstances of your case including your specific terms of employment and any circumstances surrounding the negotiation, renewal or termination of your employment engagement. It’s also important to consider whether your Award gives you a right to request permanent employment.