As at 2021, 18.8 percent of Victorians were casual workers. This number is likely an underestimate however, as the data was collected during the COVID-19 lockdowns which resulted in job losses for many casual workers - a case in point as to the risks associated with insecure work!
Insecure work, while not yet recognised by WorkSafe as a psychosocial hazard, is recognised as a risk factor under other jurisdictions such as Western Australia. The union movement and HSRs know that insecure work, which includes casual work, insecure contracting, gig economy work, fixed term contracts and labour hire work, can have detrimental impacts on workers mental health.
When workers have little or no access to paid leave or entitlements and are not sure if they are going to have a job the next day, their mental health suffers. Physical or psychological illness that might affect performance or the ability to come to work are often ignored and workers push through knowing that if they don't come to work, they won't get paid. This need to choose between paying the rent and looking after yourself has serious impacts on mental wellbeing, often exacerbating mental illness. Additionally, an inability to plan for the future, take time off and a feeling that one is dispensable, all cause psychological harm.
All of this has been confirmed by research from organisations such as the International Labour Organization, Edith Cowan University and many others.
The most effective way to address issues of insecure work is to unionise your workplace and fight for casual conversion clauses in enterprise bargaining agreements. Union members are more likely to be in permanent part-time or full-time roles.
The Conversation: On why it is important to recognise insecure work as a health hazard
World of Labor article linking job insecurity to poor mental health
Lancaster University research into how and why insecure work negatively impacts mental health
Mind Your Head has an excellent database on psychosocial hazards. It breaks down hazards into their impacts and the risk assessment and control measures that can be used. Find it here.
Updated July 2023