Myths of casual work exposed

Monday, 2 August 2004

Two-thirds of casual workers do not like working casually while 58% feel they have no flexibility with their employment, according to new research conducted by the University of Adelaide.

The findings are contained in the report "Only a casual..." How casual work affects employees, households and communities in Australia by Dr Barbara Pocock, a Research Fellow in Social Sciences at the University of Adelaide.

For the qualitative study, 55 casual workers in a variety of occupations, industries and ages and across three states were interviewed.

Dr Pocock, who presented the report at the Work Interrupted: Workplace, Family Community, Economy conference in Melbourne this morning, says the findings challenge established myths about the nature of casual work.

"It is not true, based on this study, that most casual workers choose to work casually. While some do, most do not," Dr Pocock says. "They want predictable pay and hours, paid holidays and sick leave and to be treated the same as ongoing workers.

"Only 25% of casual workers like being casual. Most commonly they are students, adults with caring responsibilities or semi-retired people - but not everyone in these categories likes being casual, so it's inaccurate to generalise about these groups."

The study showed that there are two critical conditions for a casual worker to be positive about their work conditions: another source of household income and an accommodating boss. Less than half of the respondents had these two conditions.

And while flexibility is considered important to casual workers, just as important are a lack of respect and exclusion in the workplace: exclusion from communication, training and promotion. Sick leave and holiday pay are also significant.

"Some casuals can take an unpaid holiday and sick leave when they want - but many cannot," Dr Pocock says. "For many, being sick is a real hazard that costs them pay and sometimes their job. Some casuals have few holidays, and many mention negative health effects from insecure pay and hours.

"Overall, the study found that casual work has effects beyond the individual - on children, partners, friendships, households, communities and productivity."

"Only a casual..." How casual work affects employees, households and communities in Australia is available at:


Contact Details

Associate Professor Barbara Pocock
Queen Elizabeth II Fellow in Labour Studies
School of Social Sciences
University of Adelaide.
Business: 8313 3736
Mobile: 0414 244 606

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762