People who work in paid jobs may have different types of employment that suit the needs of the employer or the needs of the employee (worker). Any employer who hires a paid worker must provide a contract of employment that is signed by the employer and the employee. The contract sets out the conditions of employment (e.g. the type of employment, hours of work, how much will be paid, and how both parties can end the contract). The contract is a legal document that must be followed by the employer and the employee.
A permanent employee is someone who works on an ongoing basis. This means that their job will continue until they (or their employer) decides to end their employment. Employers who wish to end the employment of a permanent employee have to show clear evidence for why the employment is ended. Reasons for fair termination of employment may include if the employee’s role is no longer required by the organisation, or if the employee continues to demonstrate unacceptable work performance or workplace behaviours, even after receiving feedback and support from the employer to improve their work performance or workplace behaviours.
A fixed-term employee works on a non-ongoing basis, usually for a set number of days, weeks, months, or years. For example, someone may be employed for three months in order to complete a particular project, such as organising a music festival. Sometimes, fixed-term contracts have the option to be extended or renewed.
Permanent and fixed-term employees receive:
Permanent and fixed-term employees can either work full-time or part-time hours.
In Australia, a full-time employee works a maximum of 38 hours per week, while a part-time employee works less than 38 hours in one week. Part-time work arrangements can depend on a number of factors, including other commitments you have, the type of work you do, and your personal preferences for the number of hours and days you wish to work. Part-time work is successful when your availability to work matches the employer’s need for when the work gets done.
Probation in the workplace refers to a designated period before you are offered the job for the full period of employment (fixed-term or permanent). If you’re offered a probation period, this means that your supervisor wants to see you perform in the role before committing to your continued employment. This helps them to identify whether you’re a good fit for the job, and to address any accommodations that may be required to help you be successful in the job. Usually, the probation period is between three to six months, but specific probation conditions (if there are any) will be detailed in your employment contract.
Unlike permanent and fixed-term employees, casual employees don’t have a set work arrangement. This means that their work days and hours may be irregular, and that their contract can end unexpectedly. For example, someone may be asked to work frequently over the holiday season, but then find themselves being offered very few work shifts once the holidays are over.
Casual employees aren’t entitled to paid leave if they do not work, but they do receive a higher hourly rate of pay because of the changing and unpredictable nature of their work hours. Sometimes, a person who started as a casual employee is later offered a permanent or fixed-term contract if the employer finds they can offer the employee a more regular work schedule.
Many people enjoy the freedom of casual employment, as they have greater flexibility and control over when they choose to work. However, the lack of paid leave and poor stability of work hours may feel too unpredictable or stressful for some people.
If you choose to take up casual employment, it’s best to be resourceful. While you may love the higher hourly rate, you can’t guarantee the frequency of the work hours you are offered will last – so try to save part of your pay, just in case the number of shifts you are offered start to lessen!
Shift work generally occurs on a rotating schedule. It’s a bit like a relay race, where one employee will start their shift, just as another employee is finishing their shift.
Shifts can vary in start and end times depending on the workplace, but in general are:
For example, a nurse in a hospital may work night shifts from 10pm to 6am, and sleep during the day. Some workers have rotating shifts, which means they work day shifts for a set period and then work afternoon or night shifts for a set period. There are laws to ensure that shift workers have enough of a break between each shift.
Shift work is typical for services that fall outside of the 9am–5pm business hours. Shift workers generally get paid at a higher rate for the inconvenience of this schedule. They may work on a permanent, fixed-term or casual basis, with full-time or part-time hours.
Some employers require their workers to work at a place that is far away from where they are likely to live. This means they need to travel to the workplace by plane and stay at the workplace for days or weeks at a time. These employees are referred to as FIFO or Fly In-Fly Out workers. An example of this is a geologist who works on a mine site. The employer provides accommodation and meals at or near the workplace. FIFO workers have different types of shift rosters in addition to day/afternoon/night shifts. Many work 12-hour shifts; for example from 6am to 6pm. Their rosters may require them to work every day for three weeks at the workplace and then they might have three weeks of paid time off work when they return home. Different organisations have different roster schedules for their FIFO workers. FIFO workers are paid a high rate of pay to compensate them for the extended periods of time they are away from their homes, families, and friends. Some people enjoy the intensive periods of working away and then having several weeks off work at home to relax. Other FIFO workers find it can be challenging, especially when they have a family at home, and others find it can be isolating and lonely to be away from their social supports.
In the building, construction, and plumbing industries, an employee can be hired on a daily or weekly basis. They may work full-time or part-time hours, and are generally paid at a higher rate to make up for the time in between different jobs.
If you’re under 21 years of age, you could be hired as a junior employee. Junior employees are paid a lower rate, but usually get the same paid leave entitlements as other employees. However, your hourly rate of pay will increase each year as you get older up to 21 years – like a birthday present!
The Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman’s Guide for Starting a New Job is a great resource that you can download. It outlines your entitlements and responsibilities for Australian employees. It also includes a helpful checklist to get you started!