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The Pros and Cons of Casual Employment

Updated on August 28, 2013
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Casual Workers - Who are They?

For many employers the thought of bringing on another body in times of uncertainty is daunting. There is the cost of benefits, payroll deductions and paperwork in the event of a lay off. A full time worker gives an employer little flexibility in hours and times worked. So I thought I’d put out some pros and cons for both the employer and the worker in casual work situations.

First of all “What is a Casual Worker?” By most people’s definition a casual worker is a worker who is employed on an as needed basis. There are no regular hours for workers and no guarantees whatsoever. The worker and employer still have a legal employer-employee relationship so the worker is not considered a contractor. Taxes, unemployment insurance and workers compensation still make up part of the overall compensation package.

Some typical jobs where casual labour exists are food and hospitality services, hospital staff, manufacturing, contracting, security guards, and cleaners.

There is another type of casual worker not addressed here and that is casual construction and farm labour. In many cases there is no actual employment arrangement or the arrangement may be with a union or employment agency.

Hiring Casual Workers; The Good and the Bad

Here are some benefits to employers of hiring a casual worker:

  • On-call without on-call pay. You can call the worker without any need to pay for being on-call. Casual workers in a hospital do not get on-call pay. Their full time equivalent would if the employment arrangement called for the worker to remain available for emergency work.
  • No benefit liabilities as most casual workers do not have benefits such as life insurance and medical insurance.
  • Ability to call workers as needed and only when the employer is busy enough to warrant the extra help. This can be of great benefit to an employer whose work is seasonal or has busy days.
  • Since there is no regular pay the employer can have a pool of casual workers to draw on.
  • When a full time position becomes available there is a pool of qualified workers to draw on.

Hiring Casual workers is not without its drawbacks as well:

  • The worker is partially deskilled because of the lack of regular practice of the tasks.
  • The worker may not be available due to other work.
  • The turnover rate of casual labour may be higher depending on the work and the economy.
  • May casual workers once called, will need a complete shift due to transportation costs and child care costs.
  • Quality of the product being produced may be lower
  • Casual workers may not be familiar with any policy or procedural updates.
  • Casual workers who get very poor hours and conditions may not be motivated to meet the employer’s expectations.
  • You may not depend on the casual worker to consider you first when there is more than one casual opportunity for a particular day. So, if a worker has 2 or more casual jobs the worker may opt for different work that day and it may not have anything to do with your workplace.

Casual Work from the Workers Perspective

From a casual worker’s perspective some benefits of working on a casual basis are:

  • The casual worker works when it suits them which doesn’t always meet the employers expectation
  • The casual worker may use casual work as a foot in the door for better employment
  • The workplace provides some form of social interaction,
  • It is often see better by prospective employers to be working even on a casual basis than have no job at all,
  • Keeps one’s skills from becoming out of date
  • May provide some form of networking when looking for a better job. The worker may meet suppliers and customers and find other opportunities.

Some of the drawbacks of casual work are:

  • There can be a lack of steady income. The bills are due today but the work and pay maybe a week or more off.
  • Work may interfere with pre-made plans.
  • Child care is often not available on a moment’s notice.
  • The cost of working may outweigh the benefits. Imagine a casual worker in a high-end clothing store that is expected to dress from the rack of clothes in that store. Even with substantial discounts the remaining pay may not be adequate to meet one’s life commitments or goals. Transit costs for a 2-4 hour shift may not be worth the worker’s time.
  • Lack of job satisfaction because you may never see the results of your work.

Casual Workers the Last Words

If you are an employer wishing to hire casual workers think about what you can do for these workers to make their lives have meaning. Provide a pleasant environment where possible. Have respect for your workers hopefully their labour provides you with rewards of profits. Do not dump the tasks no one else wants on your casuals. Everyone should share the good and the bad that every single job has. Don’t hire more casuals than you need or else you will have workers quit constantly and turnover has a cost even though it might be a soft cost that is not easily quantifiable. Keep casual workers trained and if you are training other workers on a new duty or procedure consider including your casual staff in that group. During holiday season like Christmas be sure to include your casual staff as you would any other staff member (like a yearend gift)

To casual workers realize that casual work is really fill in employment and the employer is under no obligation to you for regular income. Business in the current economy can be quite difficult and the flexibility of casual staff may be the only way an employer can stay competitive. Don’t have high expectations of this work and treat every call for work like a pleasant surprise. Never count on casual income to pay a regular bill. Make sure you can live within your means to reduce the anxiety that comes with unpaid bills.

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    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Very interesting post on a topic that's becoming more and more popular in the workplace today. Thanks for sharing!

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