Many home care service providers are turning to casual employment to ensure flexibility in meeting client needs and managing budgets.

In a competitive consumer driven environment, responsiveness, timeliness in responding to need and value for money all become even more important.

A casual labour force, is this good or bad? It really depends on how you look at it, whether you want or need the security of a permanent position or the flexibility offered by casual work. Casual employment is something that some people hate because of the perceived insecurity by employees. For employers, casual employees may be seen as having less loyalty to their job and the company, plus they need to pay a higher hourly rate and often there is more administration involved in rostering staff, such as ringing around to find someone who is able to take on an additional client that day.

However, the fact is that there has been a growing trend towards casualisation of the labour force – not just in aged care but in other industries as well. If you look closely, there are positives in casual employment for both organisations and staff.

Benefits for business

  • Helps with the bottom line – you may be paying a higher rate, but you only employ people when you need them.
  • Able to offer flexible and extended service times to consumers, e.g. matching people who want to work later in the day to clients who want services in the afternoon or evening.
  • Can respond to the changing needs of a consumer, increasing and decreasing the amount and type of service, as the client’s needs or circumstances change.
  • Can respond at short notice to changes, such as a new client commencing.
  • Can respond quickly to changes in the workforce over peak holiday times, such as employing appropriately qualified students over the holiday time when other staff wish to go away – this has the added benefit of providing the opportunity for new people to gain insight into the aged care industry.
  • Ability to quickly backfill when staff are ill or away for personal reasons.
  • Try before you buy – organisations can train and utilise staff on a casual basis and when there is a part-time or full-time position available, the organisation will have a good understanding of staff members and whether they are a good fit for the organisation.
  • Lower amount of funds retained in an accumulation fund to cover long service.

It seems like all the benefits sit with the organisation, however I have met a number of people who are happily employed on a casual basis and wouldn’t swap over to a full or part time position if it were offered to them. Why?

Benefits for employees

There are admittedly downsides to working casually – there are no guaranteed hours of work, little perceived job security and no holiday or sick pay or long service entitlements. However, if you are a long-term casual these may be less of a problem. If employees can demonstrate a solid history of ongoing casual employment obtaining a loan is less of an issue, and a good employee will find they are often called on to fill extra shifts. What are some of the advantages for employees in remote areas being employed casually?

  • Allows people (such as parents) the opportunity to work flexibly around their families needs, e.g. evenings or weekends.
  • Receive a higher hourly rate of pay, which may be more beneficial in day to day living, especially where they may have a partner on a full-time wage.
  • Ability to maintain or gain a skill set as casual staff have the same rights to education and training as other employees making a person more employable, if not to their current employer perhaps to another organisation.
  • Allows people who can’t work full-time the opportunity to work as and when they can, e.g. someone who has a chronic illness but is still capable of working and wishes to remain in the workforce.
  • Allows people to pursue other interests including cultural business or sports training or hobbies.
  • Staff have the flexibility to take extended leave or holidays at times that suit them.
  • May be able to pick and choose jobs, only accepting those they want to do or the clients they wish to work with.
  • Can leave the organisation they are working for with short notice and accept another more lucrative or satisfactory offer if it comes up.

So really it depends on your situation as a worker – do you need the stability of a full-time job or is the flexibility of casual work more appealing? For organisations, do you need a stable workforce or is it a better business model for you to employ on a casual basis?

I believe that the community care labour market will increasingly become more casualised. It is a necessary extension in supporting the frail aged and younger people with a disability in a more responsive and flexible way.

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