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  • 23 June 2021 11:07

Competition for casuals hits an all-time high as COVID-19 reduces the number of available workers

Employers also face the challenge of worker sentiment about the future of casual work remaining mixed, research finds

Almost 70% of casual workers reported that in 2021 their work shifts have returned to or exceeded pre-pandemic levels, demonstrating an increasing demand for the casual workforce amidst Australia’s COVID-19 recovery. However, this rising demand comes at a time when employers are competing to hire from a smaller pool of casual workers due to the workforce pressures brought on by the pandemic.

The research by Humanforce, a provider of intelligent workforce management solutions, found that only 27% of casual workers reported they are working less than prior to the pandemic.

Yet, many employers are finding it hard to meet their staff requirements, with many casual workers turning down shifts due to the high demand. This is due to the fact that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found a significant reduction in casual employee numbers as a result of the pandemic; reporting in December 2020 that there were 2.3 million casual employees, which was down from 2.6 million in February 2020.

“Casual workers really bore the brunt of the impacts of COVID-19 during 2020, because many of them are employed in areas that saw some of the biggest disruptions from lockdowns, such as hospitality, retail, events and tourism,” said Bruce Mackenzie, Founder & Managing Director at Humanforce. “While it’s really heartening to hear that the majority of casual workers have returned to normal or higher work hours this year, we know that this is largely the case because employers are currently really struggling to hire enough casual workers. This is because a large number of casual workers are transient workers like international students or working holiday makers, and the pandemic and Australia’s border closure means there are less of these types of workers available right now.”

Another ongoing challenge for employers is going to be the stability of the already reduced casual worker pool, as the sentiment following the impacts of the pandemic from workers themselves about the future of casual work is quite mixed. Just under half of respondents (45%) maintain a positive view of their future in casual work. The rest said they are trying to leave casual work (13%) and are nervous about the long-term viability of their casual employer (11%).

Additionally, 85% of casual workers said that if they were offered a permanent role by their employer, they would take it.

“While the business outlook in 2021 is much more positive in Australia, unfortunately for employers, they are facing two big challenges - trying to ramp up their casual workforce from a limited pool of workers and casual workers being rattled and lacking confidence in the future stability of casual work, which could undermine their chances of retaining them,” added Bruce. “To ensure the ongoing stability and strength of their casual workforces, businesses will need to work hard to build up their employees’ confidence again. While the majority of casual workers – 61% - said their employer had made an effort to keep in touch during the pandemic, in 2021 and beyond businesses really need to make an even bigger priority of ensuring their casual workers remain engaged and incentivised.”

The research findings showed some of the factors that could help employers attract and retain casual workers, including:

• Flexibility (59%) • Stable income (43%)

• Guaranteed shifts (62%)

• Flexible shifts and hours (42%)

• Training (34%).

Workforce management solutions can help to automate a range of these activities for businesses, including shift management, training and onboarding, employee availability, shift management, online rosters and timesheets.

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