What is a Casual Worker?

The term ‘casual worker’ describes an individual who is not part of an employer’s permanent workforce.

Casual workers will not normally be guaranteed a minimum number of hours and are usually expected to work on a flexible “as required” basis. For example, covering holidays and sickness.

If you are a casual worker, your employer isn’t obliged to offer you any work, and you are not obliged to accept work when offered.

There are many different types of casual worker, which can include those on zero hours contracts (meaning they have no minimum guaranteed hours).

Finding out your employment status

Casual workers’ legal status, and therefore their rights, depend on whether they are classed as employed, self-employed or a worker.

This can often involve an assessment of all the circumstances of the relationship. Staff who are not employees generally fall into two categories – independent contractors (such as the self-employed) or workers.

Workers have limited rights, such as:

  • Being paid the National Minimum Wage
  • To benefit from the Working Time Regulations 1998
  • To be paid for statutory annual leave.

However those who are self-employed have far fewer rights. So, it is essential to correctly identify your employment status.

Casual workers must be on the employer’s payroll

All casual workers must be included on the employer’s payroll in the same way as a permanent employee, under HRMC rules. This is the case whether they are only employed for a few days or longer.

It is also important to know that:

  • Casual workers are entitled to holiday pay 
  • Casual workers may be entitled to protection from unfair dismissal if they are in reality employees
  • Casual workers may have some basic employment rights
  • Casual workers may also be entitled to family related benefits.

Next steps

Take a look at the resources available below to guide you in more detail.

Part of
Last Updated
03 April 2024
First Published
02 May 2022
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Please note that the information contained in this Handbook is provided for guidance purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by Self Directed Support Scotland or any other contributing party.

The information does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal and professional advice from a lawyer about employment law matters, or an accountant/ tax specialist about taxation matters, and from HMRC and your insurers. You should not rely solely on the information in this Handbook. Support organisations listed in this Handbook can help you find appropriate sources of advice.