Business tips

How to employ casual staff for the Christmas period

If you’re snowed under this Christmas, you might want to consider adding an elf or two to your payroll. Here, we offer tips for finding casual staff and break down what you need to know about your responsibilities as an employer.

Hiring staff can seem like an overwhelming prospect for small businesses, but extra hands on deck may be essential during the busy Christmas period. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

Where to find Christmas casuals

There are plenty of avenues to explore when searching for Christmas workers, but the simplest (and cheapest) option is often word-of-mouth. Check with your network of family, friends or even customers in case they, or someone they know, are on the lookout for work. If that fails, you can post an ad on a traditional job-seeking site such as SEEK or CareerOne, or outsource the task to a recruitment agency. Or, consider advertising a job through local universities, which can be a great source of seasonal job-hunters.

Another approach is to use one of several job-seeker resources that are designed specifically for temporary roles. Workfast, for example, allows employers to post a job via its app, and then choose the best match from the pool of candidates who bid for the position. One of the benefits of the platform is that it caters for last-minute hiring, which is ideal if you want to wait until you’re inundated with orders before taking on staff.

However, for business owners who know in advance that they’ll require extra help during the festive season, it’s worth recruiting early. Data from international job-search site, Indeed, shows that online job searches using the term ‘Christmas casual’ peak in the first week of November, but begin as early as August.

Workplace health and safety

Regardless of whether you employ full-time, part-time or casual staff, all Australian businesses must comply with the workplace health and safety (WHS) standards established by Safe Work Australia and enforced by regulators in each state and territory.

Beyond this, business owners may need to take out workers compensation insurance depending on the legislation established by their local authority. WorkSafe Victoria, for example, requires businesses that pay more than $7,500 in annual wages, or those that employ apprentices or trainees, to take out WorkCover insurance. Contact your local WHS authority to find out which rules apply to your business.

Casual staff entitlements

At face value, a casual employee can seem the simple option when compared with a contracted worker. Admittedly, they tend to earn higher hourly pay rates and can quit without notice, but they don’t have guaranteed hours, nor receive paid annual or sick leave.

That said, they do have several rights. The National Employment Standards (NES) website states that casual employees are entitled to two days unpaid carers leave; two days unpaid compassionate leave; community service leave; and a day off on public holidays, unless it’s reasonable to request that they work. Employers must also provide new staff with the Fair Work Information Statement.

As for wages, a spokesperson for the Fair Work Ombudsman says employers should familiarise themselves with the minimum conditions relevant to their industry, explaining: “Underpayment of penalty rates can happen over holiday periods if employers are unaware of their workplace obligations. This can result in hefty bills for back-payment of wages down the track – bills that employers were not budgeting for.”

You can use the FairWork Pay Calculator to work out what you should be paying staff, including any allowances or penalties. A range of other tools and resources is also available on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website to help employers (and workers) understand their rights and responsibilities.

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