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Casual workers

The use of atypical working arrangements, particularly the use of casual workers, has become increasingly popular with employers. Despite this popularity, the meaning of the term 'casual workers' is not defined in employment law and in practice there are wide-ranging views about what the term means.
To add to the confusion, employers often use the term 'casual' with both the terms 'employee' and 'worker'. This can create confusion about the legal status of the individual and the legal rights and protections that are available to them. Where the status is uncertain, this also creates difficulty in understanding the obligations of the employer.
There is no absolute definition of 'casual workers', or a universal model of casual working. The status of individual workers and the rights and protections available to them in law will be determined by the nature of the working relationship that exists with the employer.

Key points

  • The term 'casual workers' is not defined in employment law

  • The rights and protections available to a casual worker depends on the legal status of the individual in question

  • Casual workers could potentially be employees, workers or self-employed

  • The status of the casual worker may be determined by the contractual documentation. If no such documentation exists, it will be necessary to assess how the relationship works in practice

  • Where the contract does not reflect the reality of the arrangement, consideration should also be given to how the arrangement operates in practice

  • A key consideration in determining the status of a casual worker will be whether or not mutuality of obligation exists in the working relationship

  • Where there is no mutuality of obligation, a casual worker will not be an employee.

Recent developments

Government to extend ban on exclusivity clauses

The Government has confirmed it will introduce legislation to extend the ban on exclusivity clauses, which prevent workers from working elsewhere. New laws will make exclusivity clauses unenforceable in employment contracts where the guaranteed weekly income is below or equivalent to the Lower Earnings Limit, currently £123 per week. It is hoped that by removing red tape, the lowest paid workers will be given the choice to work multiple jobs if they wish, to give them more flexibility over when and where they work.

There isn’t yet a set date for when the new law will come into force, but it will be laid before Parliament later on in 2022.