6359.0 - Forms of Employment, Australia, November 2012 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/04/2013   
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Australia's workforce is diverse. There is diversity in employment arrangements, flexible working time patterns, and in the extent of part-time and casual employment. The rate of casual employment (those without either paid sick leave and paid holiday leave entitlements) has remained relatively steady over the last 10 years.

The Forms of Employment Survey (FOES) provides information on some of the key factors relating to the nature of employment arrangements in the Australian labour market. The survey also describes some of the employment and demographic characteristics of people in different forms of employment.


This conceptual framework classifies jobholders to a 'Form of employment' on the basis of their main job, that is, the job in which they usually worked the most hours. The form of employment category groups are:

  • Employees;
  • Independent contractors; and
  • Other business operators.

Employees are then further classified according to whether they had paid leave entitlements, that is, whether they had paid sick and/or paid holiday leave.


Employees in the Forms of Employment survey are defined as people who work for a public or private employer and receive remuneration as wages or salary. Employees are engaged under a contract of service (an employment contract) and take directions from their employer/supervisor/manager/foreman on how the work is performed. This definition of employees is different from that used in the monthly Labour Force Survey and other ABS household surveys (see Glossary and Appendix 1).

Independent contractors are defined as people who operate their own business and who are contracted to perform services for others without having the legal status of an employee, i.e. people who are engaged by a client, rather than an employer to undertake the work. Independent contractors are engaged under a contract for services (a commercial contract), whereas employees are engaged under a contract of service (an employment contract). Independent contractors' employment may take a variety of forms, for example, they may have a direct relationship with a client or they may work through an intermediary. Independent contractors may have employees, however they spend most of their time directly engaged with clients or on client tasks, rather than managing their staff.

Other business operators are defined as people who operate their own business, with or without employees, but who are not operating as independent contractors. Other business operators are distinguished from independent contractors in that they generally generate their income from managing their staff or from selling goods or services to the public, rather than providing a labour service directly to a client. Other business operators spend little time working on client tasks with most of their time spent on managing their employees and/or business.