Managing people

What are the minimum hours for casual employees per shift?

What’s the minimum number of hours an employer can ask a casual employee to work in a day?

29 June 2021

Perhaps you call in a casual employee waiter but the shift doesn’t end up as busy as expected and they only end up working an hour before you no longer need them. Can you just pay them for that hour, or is there a minimum? This is called a minimum engagement period, and the short answer is: it depends.

What are the casual employee minimum hours?

There is no set standard for casual employee minimum hours across all industries, although many modern awards specify a minimium number of hours for set industries. These can vary greatly, from as little as two or three hours, to as many as eight hours per day. 

For example, casual employees in the hospitality industry “must be engaged and paid for at least two consecutive hours of work on each occasion they are required to attend work.” (11.4)

In the hair and beauty industry, “The minimum daily engagement of a casual is three hours.” ()

At the other end of the scale, casual employees in the road transport (long distance operations) industry can expect a minimum engagement of 8 hours. (11.4b)

Employers must check the relevant modern award to ensure they are providing casual staff with the correct minimum engagement periods. 13.6)At the other end of the scale, casual employees in the road transport (long distance operations) industry can expect a minimum engagement of eight hours. (11.4b)Employers must check the relevant modern award to ensure they are providing casual staff with the correct minimum engagement periods.

Recent updates from the Fair Work Commission

In November 2020, the Fair Work Commission overhauled a number of clauses in awards for casual staff, including minimum working hours. 

This may mean your industry awards have changed, so it is best to refer to the applicable modern award on the Fair Work Ombudsman website to double check your understanding of minimum casual hours is not outdated.

Increasing the minimum engagement period

Some businesses may find it prudent to offer an even higher minimum engagement period than stipulated in the relevant modern award as part of a casual worker’s contract.

For industries with shorter minimum engagement periods of just two hours or so, an employer may choose to offer a higher engagement period such as three or four hours to make their company more attractive to casual staff. This can also be used as an incentive for long-term casual employees.

Employers may be able to fill additional time with extra tasks, as stipulated in the contract, to ensure the business benefits from the minimum engagement period, while also retaining and attracting talented casuals.

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