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6105.0 - Australian Labour Market Statistics, Apr 2009  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/04/2009   
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JOB FLEXIBILITY OF CASUAL EMPLOYEES


MEASURES FROM THE 2007 SURVEY OF EMPLOYMENT ARRANGEMENTS, RETIREMENT AND SUPERANNUATION


INTRODUCTION

In recent decades the labour market has seen an increase in forms of employment other than the 'traditional' arrangement of full-time, ongoing wage or salary jobs, with regular hours and paid leave. One such form of employment is casual work.

Although casual employment has risen only modestly in recent years (from 21% in 1992 to 25% of employees (end note 1) in 2007 (end note 2)), it is of particular interest because of concerns about the working conditions of casual workers (end note 3, end note 4). These concerns include suggestions that casual job holders are less likely to be involved in workplace training than others, may have poorer career opportunities, less job security, or less flexible working arrangements. On the other hand, flexible arrangements associated with casual employment can assist employees not only in balancing their work and family responsibilities but also in balancing work and other commitments such as study.

In that context, the Commonwealth government introduced the Fair Work Bill on 25 November 2008, to give parents and other people caring for children under school age the right to make formal requests for flexible work arrangements. These provisions are intended to apply to all employees, including long-term casual workers and casuals whose jobs are ongoing. The Bill allows employers to refuse such requests only on reasonable business grounds.

This article investigates the job flexibility of casual employees, whether casual employees have as much flexibility in their working arrangements as other employees, and whether some casual employees have more flexibility than others. This article uses data from the 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation (SEARS) to shed light on these issues. SEARS was conducted in April to July 2007, on a representative sample of 14,100 households (end note 5) across Australia, prior to the introduction of the Fair Work Bill. It collected in-depth information on many aspects of the working arrangements of employed Australians, including aspects of job flexibility. A full list of SEARS data items is available from User Guide: Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.002).

In this article, casuals are defined as employees (excluding owner managers of incorporated enterprises) who are not entitled to paid sick or holiday leave (the ABS proxy measure for casuals (end note 6)). There were 8.3 million employees (end note 1) in 2007, 25% of whom were casuals, that is, they did not have paid leave entitlements.

This article focuses on those job flexibility characteristics available from SEARS which can be considered to give employees (end note 1) more control over when they work, specifically:

  • whether a person has some say in their start and finish times
  • whether a person is able to choose when holiday leave is taken
  • whether a person is able to work extra hours in order to take time off, and
  • whether a person has some say in days worked.


CASUALS HAD LESS JOB FLEXIBILITY THAN OTHERS

Apart from the issue of having some say in days worked, casuals were less likely to have flexible working arrangements than employees (end note 1) with paid leave entitlements (Graph 1).

The largest difference between casual employees and those with leave entitlements was in the ability to work extra hours in order to take time off. While 52% of employees (end note 1) with leave entitlements were able to do this, only 30% of casuals had this working condition. Casuals were less likely (77%) than employees (end note 1) with leave entitlements (89%) to be able to choose when holiday leave was taken. However, there was a similar proportion of employees (end note 1) with leave entitlements and casuals who had some say in their start and finish times (43% and 40% respectively).

1. Employees(a) in main job, Proportion with selected working arrangements by whether has leave entitlements - 2007
Graph: 1.  Employees(a) in main job, Proportion with selected working arrangements by whether has leave entitlements—2007


In SEARS, employees (end note 1) who reported that they had some say in start and finish times were then asked whether they were able to choose start and finish times on a day to day basis. Casuals who had some say in start and finish times were less likely to be able to choose times on a day to day basis than employees1 with leave entitlements (65% of casuals and 74% of employees (end note 1) with leave entitlements - Graph 2). Those who had some say in start and finish times were also asked if they worked under a formal system of flexible working arrangements. Again, in this respect casuals who had some say in start and finish times had less flexibility than employees (end note 1) with leave entitlements (10% of casuals compared with 24% of other employees (end note 1)).

2. Employees(a) in main job who had some say in start and finish times - 2007
Graph: 2.  Employees(a) in main job who had some say in start and finish times—2007


One aspect in which casuals had more flexibility was in having more say in the days of the week on which they worked (Graph 1 and 3). Whereas just 29% of employees (end note 1) with leave entitlements had some say in the days they worked in 2007, 52% of casuals had this capability. This was in part due to the higher prevalence of part-time workers among casuals: more than 1 in 3 (69%) were working part-time compared with less than 1 in 5 employees with paid leave entitlements (17%). Overall, part-time employees (end note 1) were more than twice as likely to have a say in days worked than full-time employees (end note 1) (54%, compared with 25% of full-time employees (end note 1)) and the majority of full-time employees (end note 1) (71%) worked from Monday to Friday each week. When comparing part-time employees only, the difference between casuals and the other employees was much smaller: 57% of part-time casuals had a say in the days worked, compared with 53% of part-time non-casual employees (end note 1).

3. Employees(a) in main job, Proportion who had some say in days worked by whether has leave entitlements
Graph: 3.  Employees(a) in main job, Proportion who had some say in days worked by whether has leave entitlements



MORE FLEXIBILITY FOR PART-TIME THAN FULL-TIME CASUAL EMPLOYEES (end note 1)

In some respects, casuals were more likely to have some job flexibility if they worked part-time (Graph 4). In 2007 the proportion of part-time casuals who had some say in their start and finish times was 41% compared with 37% of full-time casuals. Similarly, 70% of part-time casuals were able to choose when holiday leave was taken compared with 63% of full-time casuals, and 58% of part-time casuals had a say in days worked compared with 37% for full-time casuals.

In contrast, part-time casuals were less likely to be able to work extra hours in order to take time off (26%) than those who worked full-time (39%). This may be explained by the fact that part-time casuals were more likely than full-time casuals to have hours which vary each week (37% compared to 30%). It appears that, for part-time casuals, working extra hours may not be as important a strategy for taking time off than it is for full-time casuals.

4. Employees(a) in main job, Proportion with job flexibility by full-time part-time status - 2007
Graph: 4.  Employees(a) in main job, Proportion with job flexibility by full-time part-time status—2007



FLEXIBILITY FOR CASUALS ON FIXED-TERM CONTRACTS DIFFERENT TO OTHER CASUALS

Casuals working on a fixed-term contract had different patterns of job flexibility compared to other casuals. In some respects, working on a fixed-term contract was associated with more job flexibility than other forms of employment for casuals (Graph 5). In 2007 there were 588,800 employees (end note 1) who reported that they were working on a fixed-term contract, of whom 22% (127,400) were casuals.

Job flexibility was higher for casuals working on a fixed-term contract with regard to having some say in their start and finish times (47%) and their ability to work extra hours to take time off (36%) than for other casuals (40% and 30% respectively). In contrast, casuals on a fixed-term contract were less able to choose when holiday leave was taken (58% compared to 68% for other casuals) and when days were worked (36% compared with 53%).

Given that casuals on a fixed-term contract do not have paid holiday leave, when they take holiday leave may not be an important consideration, as they may choose to take time off after the contract expires.

5. Employees(a) in main job, Proportion with flexibility by whether on a fixed-term contract - 2007
Graph: 5. Employees(a) in main job, Proportion with flexibility by whether on a fixed-term contract—2007



GREATER JOB FLEXIBILITY FOR CASUAL EMPLOYEES IN THE PROFESSIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL SERVICES INDUSTRY

Job flexibility for employees varies across industries according to the activities and requirements of the workplace. The proportion of casuals in an industry may also have an impact on their working conditions. It may be that where there are larger proportions of casuals, working conditions may differ from other employees in the industry; on the other hand, where there are relatively few casuals, they may be treated similarly to other employees (end note 1).

In all industries, casuals had less flexibility than other employees (end note 1) for most measures, except that casuals in each industry were more likely to have a say in the days on which they worked. Furthermore, where casuals had low job flexibility, other employees (end note 1) in the same industry had low flexibility as well. Job flexibility was highest for casuals in the Professional, scientific and technical services industry: 69% of all casuals in this industry had a say in their start and finish times, 87% could choose when holidays were taken, 53% were able to work extra hours to take time off and 67% had a say in the days they worked each week (Table 6). Casuals in the Finance and insurance services industry also had higher flexibility than most other industries (67%, 89% and 45% respectively for the first three measures), though having some say in the days on which they worked was similar to the level for all casuals (51%, compared with 52%). However, in these industries, the proportion of casuals was relatively small (17% in Professional, scientific and technical services and 9% in Financial and insurance services).

Employees (end note 1) working in the Education and training industry were much less likely to have a choice in when holidays were taken than employees (end note 1) generally (38% in Education and training compared with 86% overall), as many of these employees (end note 1) are restricted to taking leave outside of teaching periods. However, casuals seemed to be less restricted than other employees (end note 1) in this industry: 47% of casuals in Education and training were able to choose when holidays were taken, compared with 37% of other employees (end note 1).

6. Employees in main job(a), Selected working arrangements by Industry and whether has paid leave entitlements - 2007

Employees(a)
Had some say in start and finish times
Could choose when holiday leave is taken
Could work extra hours to take time off
Some say in days worked
Without leave
With leave
Without leave
With leave
Without leave
With leave
Without leave
With leave
Without leave
With leave
'000
'000
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Agriculture, forestry and fishing
70.1
61.1
44.9
54.7
73.4
88.7
40.7
64.9
52.5
37.9
Mining
18.7
125.9
*26.4
29.4
73.0
94.5
*31.2
45.6
31.3
15.4
Manufacturing
169.2
780.3
31.4
34.9
68.7
92.6
28.4
49.6
34.6
17.6
Electricity, gas, water and waste services
9.2
73.3
*55.0
59.9
*55.8
94.0
*36.0
65.8
*45.6
26.5
Construction
112.6
358.4
33.8
35.1
79.7
90.8
49.6
54.9
37.1
21.3
Wholesale trade
49.2
280.8
37.8
47.7
71.5
93.6
*23.0
54.4
44.2
22.9
Retail trade
438.7
603.3
37.9
40.1
83.3
95.9
26.0
51.3
58.0
35.9
Accommodation and food services
357.6
191.6
39.8
41.9
78.8
91.3
27.4
50.2
56.5
44.5
Transport, postal and warehousing
99.7
327.7
33.1
33.1
76.2
92.1
31.3
44.2
36.6
20.6
Information media and telecommunications
39.1
166.1
42.4
57.3
80.9
96.5
*24.6
59.8
54.1
36.0
Financial and insurance services
29.9
294.6
67.2
56.4
88.9
98.1
45.1
63.6
51.2
22.9
Rental, hiring and real estate services
41.5
114.1
46.2
42.7
69.7
97.2
*18.9
55.8
56.1
29.3
Professional, scientific and technical services
91.4
443.6
68.7
61.4
87.0
98.1
53.0
65.6
66.7
29.9
Administrative and support services
123.0
144.1
36.0
43.1
70.3
92.5
26.5
43.8
41.4
24.3
Public administration and safety
55.6
557.3
56.8
60.1
73.9
93.6
33.4
64.9
47.8
28.6
Education and training
112.0
612.0
29.1
35.2
46.5
37.0
20.3
32.4
50.5
23.5
Health care and social assistance
183.3
786.2
42.6
37.5
82.0
94.9
26.0
44.4
61.3
43.8
Arts and recreation services
49.8
71.2
34.6
49.7
83.5
90.5
24.7
53.2
64.2
32.8
Other services
57.5
211.6
48.0
40.5
79.4
95.0
36.8
56.8
47.9
27.5
Total(b)
2 109.8
6 204.4
40.0
43.3
76.8
88.6
29.9
51.6
51.7
28.5

* estimate is subject to sampling variability too high for most practical purposes
(a) Employees excluding owner managers of incorporated enterprises.
(b) Includes persons whose industry could not be determined.
Source: ABS Survey of Employment Arrangements and Superannuation 2007.



MORE JOB FLEXIBILITY FOR CASUAL CLERICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE WORKERS

In the case of the first three aspects of job flexibility considered in this article, Clerical and administrative workers had the highest levels of job flexibility among casuals: 83% could choose when holidays were taken; 58% had some say in start and finish times and 44% were able to work extra hours in order to take time off (Table 7). The proportion of casuals in this occupation was smaller than most other occupations (19% of those who were Clerical and administrative workers were casuals compared with 25% for all occupations).

Across all major occupation groups, casuals were less likely than employees with leave entitlements to be able to choose when holiday leave was taken or work extra hours in order to take time off. However, for the majority of occupation groups, casuals were more likely than other employees to have some say in their start and finish times or to have some say in days worked. For example, one in three casual Labourers (33%) had some say in their start and finish times compared with only one in five (19%) Labourers with leave entitlements. Regarding having some say in days worked, 41% of casual Labourers had this working condition, compared with just 16% of Labourers with leave entitlements. As with job flexibility in different industries, occupations where casuals had low job flexibility also had low flexibility for other employees (end note 1).

7. Employees in main job(a), Selected working arrangements by Occupation and whether has paid leave entitlements - 2007

Employees(a)
Had some say in start and finish times
Could choose when holiday leave is taken
Could work extra hours to take time off
Some say in days worked
Without leave
With leave
Without leave
With leave
Without leave
With leave
Without leave
With leave
Without leave
With leave
'000
'000
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Managers
70.2
790.1
45.3
69.6
78.2
93.5
42.0
58.2
48.4
35.9
Professionals
212.6
1 582.0
48.3
50.5
71.6
79.1
34.4
47.8
59.6
33.1
Technicians and trades workers
178.6
870.2
34.1
33.0
75.1
91.8
35.1
55.4
38.5
21.9
Community and personal service workers
314.5
477.5
37.1
29.2
77.3
83.1
24.6
37.6
57.7
36.5
Clerical and administrative workers
256.4
1 120.1
58.3
49.6
83.2
94.4
44.2
64.8
59.3
27.2
Sales workers
436.7
423.4
42.0
42.0
82.8
95.1
26.8
50.6
64.1
35.2
Machinery operators and drivers
162.6
450.1
26.3
19.4
72.6
90.6
29.6
42.5
32.2
14.5
Labourers
478.1
490.9
32.6
18.9
71.7
90.4
22.8
39.8
40.8
15.6
Total
2 109.8
6 204.4
40.0
43.3
76.8
88.6
29.9
51.6
51.7
28.5

(a) Employees excluding owner managers of incorporated enterprises.
Source: ABS Survey of Employment Arrangements and Superannuation 2007.



FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information about the Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, see Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0). This publication is available free of charge on the ABS web site <www.abs.gov.au>. An expanded confidentialised unit record file is also available - for more information, see Microdata: Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Expanded CURF, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.001) on the ABS web site.

For further information about the information presented in this article, please contact Ian Appleby in Canberra on (02) 6252 7181 or email <ian.appleby@abs.gov.au>.


END NOTES

1. Employees excluding owner managers of incorporated enterprises (OMIEs). Owner managers of incorporated enterprises are people who work in their own incorporated enterprise, that is, a business entity which is registered as a separate legal entity to its members or owners (also known as a limited liability company).

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009, Labour Market Statistics, Jan 2009, Data Cubes: Table 2: Employment Type 1992-2007, cat. no. 6105.0, ABS, Canberra.

3. Watson, I, 2004, Contented Casuals in Inferior Jobs? Reassessing Casual Employment in Australia, Working paper no. 94, Australian Centre of Industrial Relations Research and Training, Sydney, <http://www.wrc.org.au/documents/WP94.pdf>, viewed 3 December 2008.

4. Wooden, M. and D Warren, 2003, The Characteristics of Casual and Fixed-Term Employment: Evidence from the HILDA Survey, Working Paper 15/03, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, Melbourne, <http://www.melbourneinstitute.com/wp/wp2003n15.pdf>, viewed 3 December 2008. The authors noted that many commentators consider growth in casual employment as an unfortunate byproduct of labour market reform, but they found by contrast that "non-standard employment is not necessarily seen as undesirable by workers".

5. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007, cat. no. 6361.0, ABS, Canberra.

6. For more information on how casual employment may be defined, see 'Measures of Casual Employment' in Australian Labour Market Statistics, October 2008, cat. no. 6105.0, ABS, Canberra.


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