Almost 70% of casual workers believe that their work shifts have returned to or exceeded pre-pandemic levels in 2021, demonstrating an increasing demand for the casual workforce, according to new research released by intelligent workforce management solutions provider, Humanforce.

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 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.

Humanforce founder and managing director, Bruce Mackenzie acknowledged that casual workers bore the brunt of the impacts of Covid-19 because many of them are employed in areas that saw some of the biggest disruptions from lockdowns, such as hospitality, retail, events and tourism.

“While it’s 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 struggling to hire enough casual workers,” he said.

“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 the stability of the casual worker pool with a mixed sentiment about the future of casual work. 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 more positive in Australia, unfortunately for employers, they are facing two key 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,” Mackenzie added.

“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 need to make an even bigger priority of ensuring their casual workers remain engaged and incentivised.”

The Humanforce research findings showed some of the factors that could help employers attract and retain casual workers include flexibility (59%), stable income (43%), guaranteed shifts (62%), flexible shifts and hours (42%), and training (34%).