Is Casual employment in Australia bad for workers?
Researchers from both Australia and the UK (Hahn, McVicar, Wooden) and assessed the impact of working in casual employment, compared with permanent employment, on eight health attributes. They also investigated the mental health impacts of casual jobs with irregular hours over which the worker reports limited control. They concluded that there was no evidence that casual employment in Australia is detrimental to self-assessed worker health. The article was published in the latest edition of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
However, in a commentary in the same edition of the journal, researchers from the University of Washington, note that while the "changing nature of work' has received a lot of attention, 'careful definition and ascertainment of 'exposure' are paramount" when interpreting any studies.
They examine some of the research and conclude that 'casual employment' is a different concept in Australia than it is assumed to be in many other countries. As a result, they say conclusions of Hahn et al should not be over-interpreted to suggest that 'contingent forms of employment have no health implications generally'. Further, future research will need to incorporate the multidimensional aspects of employment relations, as well as social and policy contexts in which they are embedded, that are likely to affect workers’ experience of work-related security and health. Despite these limitations, they say that an optimistic interpretation of Hahn et al’s well-done study is that it may be possible to modify employment relationships, through social policy, such that workers in non-permanent arrangements are at least somewhat protected against the inherent precariousness of market-based labour relations.
Read more: Hahn MH, McVicar D, Wooden M, Is casual employment in Australia bad for workers’ health? [Full text] Occup Environ Med oemed 2021;78:15–21 and
Trevor Peckham, Noah S Seixas, What’s casual? What’s causal? Advancing research on employment relationships and health [Full text] Occup Environ Med oemed 2021;78