Casual Workers

Free as a bird

A casual worker is one who is under no contractual obligation to commit to particular working hours, as with the permanently employed workforce, but instead has the option of accepting work that is offered.

The extent of employment rights allocated to a casual worker can be hard to establish at a glance, because it can at times be difficult to establish exactly what their working relationship with the employer actually entails. There are a number of different criteria which are used to identify what rights the worker has, but it comes down to whether they count as an employee, a worker or a self-employed individual.

If a casual worker counts as an employee, they will be entitled to the same rights as any other employee of the company. The employment rights of an employee are the strongest out of these three groups, protecting them against unfair dismissal, and, among other things, giving them the right to statutory sick pay, maternity, paternity and adoption pay, maternity and paternity leave, providing protection on a TUPE transfer and giving entitlement to a statutory redundancy payment.

In order to count as an employee, there must be an expectation (whether set out in a contract or agreed in other ways) that you are to work personally for the organisation in question, and there must be what is known as ‘mutuality of obligation’. This means that your purported employer must be obliged to offer work to you, and you must be under obligation to complete it rather than being able to pick and choose.

Legally, being an employee means that you have a contract of employment, but since a contract of employment can be hard to define, it is the two requirements above which are used to establish your employee or non-employee status.

If you are not an employee, you may still turn out to be a worker, which gives you less rights than a fully-fledged employee. You are a worker but not an employee if you personally complete tasks for another party while not acting as a commercial enterprise yourself, or act for them under any other contract that is not an employment contract.

If you are a worker, you will possess some basic rights. You will be protected against some kinds of discrimination, be subject to the Working Time Regulations, be entitled to the national minimum wage and protected against unlawful deductions from your wage, and receive protection under health and safety and whistleblowing legislation.

If you are neither an employee nor a worker, then you are likely doing work for the company in question on a self-employed basis, in which case the only employment rights you have in your dealings with the employer are limited discrimination protection, any specific rights which are set out in the contract under which you are working for them and certain common law protections.

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