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The New Lingo of Work: Workplace Terms and What They Mean

20 April 2022   |   by Explore Careers

Are you diving headlong into the world or work and applying for your first jobs? Congrats!

It’s an exciting time but might also come with a little bit of head-scratching. All those job descriptions and organisation mission statements might leave you with questions about what some of the terminologies mean.

That’s where we can help!

The Explore Careers Workplace Terms Glossary

We’ve put together a list –  a glossary of sorts – to help you untangle what some of the most common workplace terms mean.

For ease, we’ve popped them into alphabetical order – let’s take a look!

Casual Contract

You might see this term come up quite often within industries like hospitality and retail. Essentially, as an employee, you have no confirmed commitment for the hours you’ll work per month or week. You might also see this referred to as a zero-hours contract.

Casual employees tend to work on an as-needed basis – sometimes to cover other permanent staff sick or annual leave or help out during busier seasons. You will only be paid for your work hours, which might not be any during some weeks. Many young people and students without significant financial commitments find these roles suit them and their studies well.


Similar to a casual contract, contractors are usually employed for a set period within an organisation – it might be three months, six months or twelve. These roles tend to be full-time or part-time, usually to cover another staff member (on parental leave, perhaps) or to help a new project get delivered.

While on contract, you’ll be treated as a full employee and have the same rights, but there’s no guarantee of work once your contract period ends. Many tradespeople and construction workers are employed on this basis.

Fair Work Act

You might see this one mentioned on many employer job ads and company websites.

The Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) provides protection for certain workplace rights or individuals under employment with an organisation. It includes equality, diversity and inclusion, and the right to work without unlawful discrimination based on age, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, and other characteristics.

Full-Time Position

What it says on the tin! When a role is advertised as full-time, you can expect to be employed and paid for the full time designated work hours. This might be Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, or something different to suit the business. For example, if you’re employed full time within hospitality, retail, or care services, your full-time hours will usually involve some evening and weekend shifts.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)

Full-time equivalent is usually used for a salary of an advertised position. For example, a job advert might advise a part-time role but include the full-time equivalent salary. You’ll need to calculate what the full-time hours are to work out the actual salary for the part-time position.

For example, if a full-time employee is equivalent to 30hours per week, but a role is advertised at 15hours per week, the actual salary will be half the full-time equivalent.


An increasingly popular career choice for lots of people! Freelancers specialise in skills that other businesses and organisations need – from content writing to web design, accounting to coaching! Freelancers work to match potential clients, set their hours and salary, and deliver work based on their client’s needs.

You might deliver a one-off project for different clients throughout the year or work with several different clients at once to help them deliver their business. 

Gig Economy

Going hand in hand with freelance roles and careers, the gig economy refers to short term roles and contracts – these might be related to freelance gigs, or they could also be seasonal and project-related.

Many people who work in the arts and creative industries find themselves moving through the gig economy – where their careers are categorised by moving from one project to the next, working with different institutions and organisations to deliver programs or work.

Shift Work

Shift work refers to any role where you don’t work a standardised time pattern. In these roles, the total number of hours you’re expected to work per week typically stays the same, but the days and times will change.

Most shift work roles operate on a two-week rotation, so you may have the same work pattern for two weeks before it changes again. Nurses, careworkers and other medical roles, and emergency services, tend to operate on shift work contracts.

Workplace Culture

Another term you’re likely to see come up a lot on job ads and employer websites is workplace culture – and descriptions of what the culture is like within a given organisation.

Workplace culture refers to the shared values, belief systems, and attitudes employees in a workplace share. It could be how everyone respects each other and customers, the overall values of the business, and the type of brand image they want to portray as a company.

What Other Words Are Stumping You?

This is just a brief selection!

We’ve done our best here to cover just some of the most common terms we see coming up a lot that we get asked about, but what else is out there that you’re seeing? What lingo, terms, slang or jargon is stumping you in the world of work?

We’d love to keep this glossary growing, so just let us know on our Instagram page or drop us an email:


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