The truth about minimum hours for casual employees

As a business owner, it is essential to understand the minimum hours for casual employees, per shift they work. This Business Kitz article will explain any laws and regulations that govern how long an employee must be employed for per shift.

What defines a casual employee?

Under the Fair Work Act, a casual employee is a person who accepts a job offer from an employer knowing that the offer does not include a firm advance commitment and that the work will continue employment indefinitely with for a minimum number of hours per shift. If a person is employed as a casual worker, their roster can change each week to suit their employer’s needs, and they can refuse or swap shifts.

What is a no firm advance commitment?

There are 4 factors that determine whether an employer’s offer doesn’t include a firm advance commitment, however, there is not a requirement for all four to be satisfied to find there to be ‘no firm advance commitment’. These factors are:

  • Whether the employer can choose to offer the employee work and it’s the employee’s choice to work or not;
  • Whether the employee will be offered work when the business needs them to work;
  • If the employment is described as casual; and
  • If the employee is paid a casual loading (a higher pay rate for being a casual employee), or a specific pay rate for casual employees.

What are the minimum hours for casual employees per shift?

The minimum number of hours a casual employee can work varies depending on different Awards. For most industries, the minimum hours for shift work are generally 3-4 hours. This means that even if you roster an employee on for a 2 hour shift, you have to pay them for at least 3 hours’ work. Award examples include: 

  • Retail – 3 hours
  • Fast Food – 3 hours
  • Cleaning Services – 2 hours
  • Clerks – 3 hours
  • Building and construction – 3 hours

The minimum number of hours requirement exists to ensure that employees are not disadvantaged by working a short shift, with a maximum number of hours also applying to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees.

What about rest breaks and meal breaks?

Casual employees are entitled to both rest breaks and meal breaks. A rest break is a 10 minute paid break that counts as time worked. A meal break is a 30-60 minute unpaid break that allows employees to eat a meal during their shift. Employees can choose to take the full 30-60 minute unpaid meal break, or a 20 minute paid meal break.

Is there a difference between part-time vs casual employees?

The main difference between part-time and casual employees are their shift hours, their employment benefits and wages. 


Casual employees work mutually agreed hours which can vary from week to week. Employers inform casual employees of how many hours they would like them to work each week and what day they are to work these hours. Employers also assume casual employees will work their rostered hours unless they’re informed otherwise.

Part-time employees agree to a fixed number of hours when signing their contracts. Employers can only reduce or increase a part-time employee’s hours by way of mutual agreement.


The hourly rate of casual employees is at least 25% more than part-time employees in a similar position. This higher rate is called casual loading. Casual loading makes up for the extra benefits part-time employees enjoy, including paid leave and job security.


Part-time employees receive the pro-rata equivalent of full-time employee leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act. These annual entitlements are:

  • Four weeks of paid annual leave;
  • 10 days of paid sick, personal or carers leave;
  • Two days of paid compassionate leave;
  • Five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave per year; and
  • Unlimited unpaid community service leave.

Casual employees are not entitled to paid leave. However, they can take unpaid leave for travelling and recovering from illnesses whenever their employer agrees. They also receive:

  • Two days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion;
  • Two days of unpaid compassionate leave per occasion;
  • Five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave per year; and
  • Unlimited unpaid community service leave.

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Legal advice

If you have any queries or are unsure about the minimum hours of work as a casual employee, you should seek legal advice. Our sister company Legal Kitz can assist in determining your hours of work as a casual employee. Our Legal Kitz business specialists can assist with ensuring that your concerns are addressed and can provide you with advice that is tailored to your situation. You can book a free 30-minute consultation with our experienced and highly qualified team via our website now.

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